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Te f* 

NATHAN ROTHSCHILD . . . Frontispiece 

(Founder of the London House) 



(h'roiH a photo by Elliott & &')') 







THE Rothschilds, who have held in their 
hands for more than a century the threads of 
the financial life of the Old World, were 
described by Heine many decades ago as the 
first bankers in Europe. Even to-day there is 
not one of the more recent financial dynasties 
that can boast a wealth equal to that of the 
famous Jewish financiers. The mere mention 
of their name suggests the power of millions, 
and, to those who are ever ready to pay homage 
to wealth, these descendants of a petty hawker 
of the Frankfort ghetto seem to be the very 
personification of earthly riches. 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

This fabulous success of the Rothschilds 
seems the more remarkable when we learn 
that the immediate founder of this powerful 
dynasty, the aged Maier Amschel, was, little 
over a hundred years ago, a small trader in 
the Jewish quarter of Frankfort, and cannot 
have had even a dream of the millions which 
his family afterwards amassed. He began his 
career as a modest shopkeeper; his sons 
became millionaires, his grandsons multi- 
millionaires. Three generations sufficed to 
convert this obscure ghetto-family into the 
greatest financial power in the world. That 
fact is enough of itself to invest the origin 
of the Rothschild firm with the significance 
of an historical event, nor is the interest 
lessened when we realise the profound in- 
fluence it has had on the fate of Europe 
and the whole political and social life of the 

But the conscientious historian who would 
relate the almost legendary course of their 
story will find it useless to explore the dusty 
archives of States and finger the mouldering 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

parchments of heraldic offices in search of 

earlier traces of the family. There are no 

documents carrying back the story of the 

Rothschilds to the Middle Ages. No ancestor 

of theirs ever sought the laurels of war on the 

battlefield, and certainly it is related of none 

that he joined a crusade to rescue the Holy 

Land from the heathen. We do not find the 

name of a Rothschild in the illuminated 

chronicles of the medieval monks, and we 

should vainly seek their arms in the gaily 

coloured lists of the ancient knights. No 

ancestral castle of theirs stands, like a falcon's 

nest, above the steep shores of the Rhine 

or the Danube, threatening the prosperous 

caravans of the plain. The few indications 

that we have go to show that the earlier 

members of the family were all peaceful 

tradesmen. The founder of the present house 

was certainly born at Frankfort on the Main, 

in the ghetto of which he inaugurated that 

struggle for life which was destined to have 

so brilliant an issue. It was a time when the 

Jewish inhabitants groaned under severe 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

disabilities, yet the quick-witted and quiet- 
tempered Jew never abandoned his race and 
religion. He struggled against prejudice, and 
toiled for the welfare of his family; he strove 
to raise himself above the crowd and to place 
the future of his house on foundations of 
granite. " Work " was his knightly motto ; and 
for the sake of his wife and children he worked 
assiduously from early morning until night, 
when the civic authorities fastened, with heavy 
chains and locks, the doors which confined 
Maier Amschel and his co-religionists in their 
narrow ghetto. He bore oppression in silence; 
he was one of the patient one, indeed, of the 
most patient of the sons of Israel in the old 
Hansa city. 

The patent of nobility of the Rothschild 
family and their diploma of barony are hardly 
a century old, yet the story of this hundred 
years is not the mere story of a banking house ; 
it is, if we regard it aright, the history of 
Europe, the story of the debts and loans of 
its constituent States during a century. Nearly 
every civilised State in Europe figures in that 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

calendar, on some more or less important occa- 
sion, for some comparatively large sum of 
money. What State was there in the nineteenth 
century that needed money to cover its debts 
and did not turn to the Rothschilds? Even 
when it did not have direct recourse to their 
coffers, it sought their powerful mediation. It 
was by means of State loans that the house 
attained its unique position as a financial auto- 
cracy and cosmopolitan power. As Ludwig 
Borne says, with his caustic humour : " The 
balance of power in Europe is maintained by 
the Jews. They find money for one country 
to-day, for another to-morrow, for all of them 
in turns, and they thus preserve the general 

The higher nobility of Germany and Austria- 
Hungary have done considerable business with 
the Frankfort and Vienna branches of the 
firm, and we find the name of many a prince 
and lord of the land in the old ledgers of the 
offices in the Frankfort ghetto. The following 
list of nobles to whom money was advanced by 
the Rothschilds during the sixth decade of the 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

last century will give some idea of the extent 
of their operations l - 


Prince Isenburg Birstein 92,000 

Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg . . . 25,000 

Waldburg-Zeil 15,000 

Count Alexander Szlavnicza 55oo 

Ritter von Riese 20,000 

Prince Isenburg-Wachtersbach 24,500 

Solms-Lich 25,000 

Lowenstein-Wertheim 104,000 

Lowenstein-Rosenberg 30,000 

Victor Isenburg 12,000 

Count Viczay 58,000 

Szapkry 25,000 

Leiningen-Westerberg 6,500 

Niczky 28,000 

Hunyady 41,500 

Sze'chenyi 150,000 

Henkel v. Donnersmark 94,000 

Froberg 8,500 

Prince Galantha Esterhazy 533>o 

Baron von Greifenklau 10,000 

Prince Schwartzenberg 416,000 

Waldburg-Wolfegg 66,000 

Waldsee 30,000 

Count Wartenberg 173,000 

Prince Wied 87,000 

The Rothschilds, however, never cared for 
loans to private individuals. "If there is 
question of a loan, let it be to a State," was 
their motto. It would be extremely difficult to 

1 The German figures are expressed throughout in round 
English sums. Trans. 


The Rise of the Rothschilds 

calculate how much profit they made by these 
loans to princes and States. They were never 
content in those days with the mere interest on 
the capital they advanced, but they also engaged 
in very extensive speculation on 'Change with 
the stock which a State issued on the strength 
of their operations. By this means the firm 
became a financial power of the first magnitude, 
and we may recognise one of the chief founda- 
tions of their success in the action of Maier 
Amschel when he sent his five sons to open 
banks in five important cities. The third son, 
Nathan, captured London and England, while 
his younger brother James ruled at Paris. 
The fourth son became the financial prince of 
Italy; the eldest of the brothers controlled the 
financial situation throughout Germany from 
his office at Frankfort; and the second son, 
Solomon, lived at Vienna and was regarded as 
the Croesus of the dual monarchy. 

Within the space of a hundred years the 
Rothschild family made a fortune amounting 
to more than four hundred million pounds 
sterling. Amongst the many contemporaries 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

who endeavoured to penetrate the secret of this 
marvellous success was the distinguished 
diplomatist and friend of Prince Metternich, 
Friedrich von Gentz, who wrote as follows 

' The question how the Rothschild house 
could do all that it has done in so short a time 
has assuredly occupied the attention of many 
a business man and politician. Possibly, how- 
ever, it is not so difficult to give an answer as 
is generally believed. Any one who disregards 
chance gains and realises that in all large 
operations success depends, not only on seizing 
and using the favourable moment, but still 
more on a strict adhesion to certain funda- 
mental principles, will easily see that there 
were two maxims in particular of which this 
house never lost sight, and to which, apart 
from its shrewd conduct of business and taking 
advantage of favourable opportunities, it owes 
the greater part of its actual prosperity. 

' The first of these principles was the 
determination of the five brothers to conduct 
the whole of their business in constant co-opera- 
tion. That was the dying command of their 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

father. If they have prospered, it is because 
they have been absolutely faithful to this rule. 
After the death of the father every offer, no 
matter whence it came, was discussed by them 
collectively; every operation of the least im- 
portance was carried out according to an agreed 
plan, and by their joint exertions, and they all 
shared equally in the profit. No matter how 
great the distance was between their centres 
Frankfort, Vienna, London, Paris and Naples 
it never interfered with their common under- 
standing. In fact it had the additional advan- 
tage that each of them could be perfectly 
acquainted with the situation in his own part 
of Europe and assist more effectively in carry- 
ing out the business undertaken by the whole 

' The other principle they kept in mind was, 
not to strain after an excessive profit in any 
operation, to impose definite limits on all they 
undertook, and, as far as human foresight 
and prudence could achieve it, leave nothing 
to chance. This maxim Servare modum 
finemque tenere (' Be moderate, and never 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

lose sight of the goal ') is one of the chief 
secrets of their strength. 

' There is no doubt that with the resources 
at their disposal they might have obtained a 
much greater advantage in one or other opera- 
tion. But, even supposing that it would not 
have affected the security of their operations, 
they would in the end have made less profit 
than they did by distributing their forces over 
a large number of operations which occurred 
repeatedly and in varied conditions. That 
there should be no lack of such opportunities 
they were assured, not only by their wealth and 
credit, but by the confidence which they had 
inspired in all governments and large houses 
by the moderation of their charges, the punctu- 
ality of their deliverances, the simplicity and 
clearness of their plans, and the intelligent way 
in which they carried them out. The success 
which others sought in the field of commerce 
or of war by master-strokes, which often lead 
to defeat instead of victory, was attained 
by them through the happy application of 
the best principles of mercantile strategy : 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

not by audacity, but by prudence and per- 

' The personal or moral character of the 
five brothers has had no slight influence on 
the success of their undertakings. It is not 
difficult to create a numerous party when one 
is powerful enough to enlist large numbers in 
one's interest. But to bring into agreement the 
voices of all parties and win the regard of all, 
one needs, not only material resources, but also 
certain qualities of character which are not 
always associated with power and wealth. To 
do good to those about them, to refuse a help- 
ing hand to none in distress, to hasten to the 
relief of every one who sought it, no matter to 
what class he belonged, and to give a pleasant 
form to the most material services these ways 
of attaining a sincere and deserved popularity 
have, as thousands can testify, been followed 
by all the members of the family, not out of 
calculation, but out of their natural humanity 
and benevolence. They have attained one 
thing that few favourites of fortune attain : 
they have won a host of friends without making 

B 17 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

a host of enemies. It might be said in all 
truth that they have paralysed the tongue of 
jealousy and malice. In such circumstances 
they needed no external distinctions to adorn 
a position that was already so distinguished 
in itself. Their merits, however, have been 
publicly recognised by several Courts. 

" Besides various decorations which have 
been conferred on them, all the brothers were 
made Commercial Privy Councillors of the 
kingdom of Prussia in 1818 and Financial 
Councillors of the Hesse Court in 1815. His 
Majesty Francis of Austria gave them an 
hereditary title in 1815, and in 1822 he raised 
them to the position of Austrian barons. In 
addition the brother who settled at London 
was appointed Austrian Imperial Consul in 
1820, and two years later Consul General; 
while the brother in charge of the Parisian 
house also was made Consul General in 1822." 

Thus does Gentz speak of the children of 
the Frankfort ghetto, but he is mistaken in 
regard to the distinctions conferred on them. 

It was not in 1815 that they received the title 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

of nobility from the Austrian government; the 
elder brothers Anselm and Solomon were 
ennobled by a decree of September 25, 1816, 
and the younger brothers Karl and James on 
October 2ist of the same year. It is strange 
to find that the third brother, Nathan, who 
already dominated the Exchange at London, 
was passed over in this nomination. When 
there was question of giving a title to the four 
brothers, they tried to design a coat of arms 
which would reflect their financial position and 
great success. They thought of combining the 
arms of Hesse, England and Austria, and 
adding a five-fingered hand as a symbol of 
their unity and cohesion. It was also intended 
to include a hound as a figure of fidelity and 
a stork as a symbol of piety and prosperity. 
However, the actual Rothschild arms, which 
was sanctioned by the Austrian Government on 
March 25, 1817, only contains a part of these 
things. Six years later not seven, as Gentz 
says on September 29, 1822, they were 
created barons : an imperial favour which was 
extended to Nathan also. On this occasion 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

they adopted a fresh coat of arms, the motto 
of which consists of the three Latin words, 
" Concordia, Integritas, Industria " (Concord, 
Integrity, Industry). 

The Rothschilds did not at this time owe 
their power to money only, as their fortune 
was not yet large enough to enable them to 
compete with and defeat bankers with a larger 
capital. To reach this stage they needed the 
quality which we find in Nathan, who obtained 
an unlimited control of the Exchange by 
colossal operations on it. In their efforts to 
obtain power we find not only the three 
qualities which are indicated in the above 
motto, but a very remarkable co-operation on 
the part of the five brothers, and a consider- 
able faculty for grasping favourable oppor- 
tunities at once and utilising them with great 
energy. Further, their fortune was not due 
merely to the State loans which they negoti- 
ated, but to their traffic on a large scale with 
every kind of stock on all the exchanges of 
the western hemisphere. In this way they 
obtained an insight into the economic and 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

political conditions of every land, were enabled 
to make a shrewd calculation of the chances 
of war breaking out, and, according to the 
aspect of the political horizon, either to buy 
up or throw all their holdings on the market. 

The man who is unfamiliar with financial 
matters will be inclined to suppose that in their 
operations the Rothschilds spun a particularly 
complicated net of plans and needed very 
elaborate arrangements. He will imagine that 
this machinery, working in all directions and 
turning everything into money by means of its 
secret structure, could only be created by the 
intense speculative power of particularly gifted 
men like the Rothschild brothers. The facts 
are otherwise, however, and if we withdraw the 
veil from the action, not only of the Roths- 
childs, but the financial world generally, any 
one can understand how much speculation on 
'Change has contributed to the accumulation 
of the enormous fortune of the house. An 
example will show this more clearly. The 
founders of the business negotiated with a 
certain State a loan of so many millions, con- 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

sisting of shares of a hundred florins each. 
The shares were handed over to them at 96 
florins, and they sold them at 130. This gave 
them a clear profit of 34 per cent. They had at 
their command many means of increasing the 
interest of the public in the new loan and confi- 
dence in themselves. Whenever they regarded 
a stock as good, there was quite a struggle to 
secure it. Everybody wanted to invest in it, so 
as to secure a better return on his capital. Other 
business men would have been satisfied with 
the above-mentioned profit which the Roths- 
childs secured at one stroke. They thought 
otherwise ; they bought and sold the stock over 
and over again, according as they rose or fell 
in value. In this way they drew enormous 
sums into their coffers. 

It is said that in order to depreciate the price 
of the stock, they floated a new loan shortly 
after the first ; they had decided on this in con- 
cluding the first arrangement, but the general 
public had no suspicion of it. Then, when the 
new issue brought down the value of the pre- 
ceding one, they entered the market as buyers. 


The Rise of the Rothschilds 

They bought their own stock for less than they 
had sold it for, and in the continual rise and 
fall, which they controlled with masterly skill, 
they won an enormous profit. The five cities- 
London, Vienna, Paris, Frankfort and Naples 
were an excellent theatre for observing the 
ebb and flow of the financial tide and deploying 
the speculative power of the Rothschilds. 
Naturally, they reaped their best harvests at 
times of grave disturbance, especially during 
war. In such cases the secret of their success 
was to learn the coming events before all 
others; and this was not a work of chance, but 
the outcome of their distinguished connections 
and the fine organisation of their business. 

As they knew well that a rise, even for a few 
minutes, may be of the greatest importance on 
the Exchange and lead to immense gains and 
losses, they were always very careful to enter 
into the closest possible relation to the decisive 
factors. They therefore succeeded in drawing 
into their sphere of interest distinguished 
politicians and men of high social standing, so 
that they could learn important events before 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

others. That was a very considerable aid, 
especially at a time when the postal service 
was imperfect and there was no telegraph or 
telephone. They attached the greatest import- 
ance to receiving information from high 
sources, and for this end they made influential 
acquaintances at the courts of the chief ruling 
families. In this, as in their willingness to 
make sacrifices, they showed a quite remarkable 
knowledge of men. We cannot regard that 
either as a merit or a defect; it merely shows 
the great power of adaptation that circum- 
stances had engendered in them. The high 
officials whom they pressed into the service of 
their plans were, for the sake of their families, 
quite ready to turn their confidential knowledge 
into coin. It was quite in keeping with the 
moral notions of the time. If the Rothschilds 
had not made use of such means, their rivals 
would have done so. Public opinion was 
indifferent to such things. What people 
thought of them at the time may be seen in 
the case of Gentz, who quietly and with the 

greatest complacency notes in his diary the 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

sums that he received from the Rothschilds for 
such services. They were shrewd enough to 
know that in financial matters we have not 
to deal with supernatural beings, but mortals, 
whose god is gold. 

They thought no sacrifice too great to attain 
this end. Immense sums were paid for in- 
formation, but they brought a considerable 
interest. Secretaries of State, ministers, ambas- 
sadors, and the most intimate servants of 
princes vied with each other to give the Roths- 
childs the first news; the outbreak of the July 
Revolution at Paris, for instance, in the year 
1830, was learned by Baron Nathan Rothschild 
before anybody else in England, and it was he 
who informed the English Government. At 
Vienna their chief informant was Baron Gentz ; 
he never speculated on the Exchange himself, 
but he " won " considerable sums, which the 
Rothschilds did not grudge because he enabled 
them to make vastly larger sums. Baron 
Solomon deplores the death of Gentz in the 
following words in a private letter to his 
brother James at Paris 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

" He was a friend indeed ; I shall never 
have another like him. He has cost me large 
sums of money no one would believe how 
much for he merely wrote on a piece of paper 
what he wanted, and he had it at once; but 
since his disappearance I begin to see how 
much we have lost, and I would give three 
times as much if I could bring him to life 

By the organisation of State loans, shrewd 
moves on the Exchange, and their excellent 
supplies of information, the children of the 
ghetto at length attained the position of which 
a writer of the time said : " There is only one 
Power in Europe, and that is Rothschild; his 
satellites are a dozen other bankers, his soldiers 
are all decent merchants and workers, his sword 
is speculation. Rothschild is a result that was 
bound to come; if it were not Rothschild, it 
would be another. He is, however, by no 
means a chance result, but an inevitable out- 
come of the State principles which have ruled 
Europe since 1813. Rothschild needed the 
State in order to become Rothschild, and the 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

States of Europe needed a Rothschild. Now 
that he has become what he is he needs the 
State no longer; the State needs him." 

A writer in the Augs burger Allgemeine 
Zeitung says : ' The remarkable position of 
the Rothschild family is one of the most extra- 
ordinary phenomena of our eventful age. In the 
sixteenth century, when German commerce was 
still in its infancy, the Fuggers succeeded in 
securing wealth and fame and the title of count 
by the great services they rendered and loans 
they made to the Emperor Maximilian. The 
only other instance of this kind in history is 
that of the Rothschilds. Their contemporaries 
the Barings, Hopes, Torlonias, and Aguados 
have also, it is true, made colossal fortunes 
by their business, and even negotiated loans 
with many governments, but they never suc- 
ceeded, as the Rothschilds did, in raising them- 
selves to a higher political sphere. While the 
circumstances of the time were favourable to 
them, we must recognise that they turned them 
to advantage with rare ability, and so attained 
the remarkable position as leading financial 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

power which enables them to exert so powerful 
an influence. 

" In the course of twenty-eight years the 
house of the Rothschilds has, in the many 
loans which it has made to England, Austria, 
France, Prussia, Russia, Naples, Denmark, 
Belgium, and most of the princes of the 
German Confederation, paid hundreds of 
millions to these States, with remarkable 
promptitude, and often at a time of grave 
political crisis, and has in this way proved the 
strength of its resources. Yet all who had a 
share in these transactions saw their specula- 
tions always crowned with success, and the 
general confidence in the Rothschilds was 

"When, in recent years, the speculative 
spirit turned to industrial concerns, and rail- 
ways became a need of the continent, they 
again took the initiative and put themselves at 
the head of the movement. The Versailles 
Railway on the right bank of the Seine is their 
creation, and in Austria they gave the first 
impetus to undertakings of this nature by con- 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

structing the great Northern Railway ; wherever 
a really national work was to be undertaken one 
could rely on the co-operation of their capital. 

"But in order to appreciate properly the 
higher point of view of the Rothschild house 
we must distinguish several periods in its 
development. The first began in the year 
1815 and lasted about ten years; in this period 
the foundations of their vast fortune were laid. 
Then came the lamentable year 1825. Exces- 
sive speculations of all kinds led to a fearful 
reaction in business. Hundreds of well-known 
business-men got into difficulties or failed. 
The Rothschilds, however, were not merely 
uninjured; they lent the aid of their great 
resources and unlimited credit on all sides, and 
it is well known that at that time their supplies 
of silver and gold put the Bank of England in 
a position to meet its obligations. The busi- 
ness world already knew the wealth of the 
Rothschilds, but it was only during this brief 
and unsettled period of their career that their 
power was fully developed. From that time 
they had a considerable political importance, 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

and no Government undertook any large 
financial operation without their assistance. 
In their third period, which extends to the year 
1830, their repute and influence as the leading 
financial power continued to rise. Then the 
July Revolution suddenly broke out and shook 
European credit to its foundations, and with 
that begins the fourth and most brilliant stage 
of their financial activity. 

" Large numbers of banking houses were 
destroyed by the lightning of the political 
storm, while the Rothschilds not only sustained 
the tempest, but offered the aid of their great 
resources to the new French Government, 
which seemed to them a security for the main- 
tenance of law and order. The incalculable 
sums which they put at the disposal of the 
Powers in that critical period and the fine 
diplomatic tact they displayed in the most 
delicate situations won for them the unreserved 
confidence of the various cabinets. The Roths- 
childs at that time did more for the maintenance 
of peace than the world suspected. 

* The question naturally occurs, how they 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

found it possible to keep their position and 
influence in France under so many different 
governments? But the answer is not difficult. 
They belong to no political party; they are 
friends of the country, of law, and of peace, 
and as such they could offer their great financial 
influence just as easily under the heterogeneous 
ministries of Decaze, Villele, Martignac, or 
Polignac, as under the government of Louis 

"The unquestioned power that the Roths- 
childs have over commerce in general is equally 
just in its foundation and beneficent. Their 
motto is, ' Peace and the Development of In- 
dustry' and these alone promote the welfare 
of nations. The age of illusions is over; 
nations have long been convinced that their 
efforts to maintain peace do far more for their 
material interests than the sanguinary clash 
of political theories. A wealthy people is 
a powerful people, and will not suffer any 
arbitrary oppression. 

" History will quote the firm of the Roths- 
childs as a remarkable example of the attain- 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

ment of enormous wealth and far-reaching 
political influence by a shrewd spirit of specu- 
lation, perseverance, and fraternal unity, aided 
by fortune and wit." 

The prophecy of this philosophical journal- 
ist of the Augs burger Allgemeine Zeitung has 
been fulfilled. The career of the Rothschilds 
is a typical example for millions of people, 
and, though it is not every one who can attain 
such success, these people will look back with 
admiration on old Maier Amschel, and many 
generations will learn a lesson from his life 
as long as the triumph of the human mind 
compels attention. Indeed, apart from the 
romantic element in their story, the Roths- 
childs are entitled to great consideration from 
the fact that they have saved large numbers 
of firms from ruin. They thus became the 
Caesars of the world of finance. This is not 
a mere phrase or an exaggeration. Other 
bankers were, in fact, only their vassals; they 
might, as they willed, raise them or destroy 
them, but they chose to support and strengthen, 
them as long as they did not interfere with the 
operations of the Rothschilds. 

The Rise of the Rothschilds 

Since the year 1840, which brought a tempest 
upon the economic life of the European States, 
the business transactions of the Rothschilds 
have found an additional channel. They 
turned to the increasing branches of industry- 
railways, mines, ironworks, etc. and founded 
banks, and thus found a means of making fresh 
and hitherto unexploited wealth. They re- 
tained their dominant position in the financial 
world, as the magical power of their name was 
enhanced. They were now the unquestionable 
masters, not only of the Exchange, but of trade 
and commerce. Numbers of prosperous banks 
and industries sprang up at their command, 
and they became owners of mines, mills, 
factories, and estates in every part of the world. 

The actual power of the Rothschilds cannot 
be compared with that of the five brothers in 
earlier days, though their fortune is larger than 
ever. This is due, however, not to a deprecia- 
tion of ability in their descendants, but to a 
change of circumstances. The financial posi- 
tion of the various States in Europe has so 
immeasurably improved during the last hun- 
dred years that they no longer need an 
c 33 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

intermediary in contracting loans. Rival banks 
have also done their share in bringing to a 
close the supremacy of the Rothschilds. But, 
if their autocracy in the money-world is ended, 
their vast fortune remains, and surpasses that 
of any of the American millionaires. Neither 
Rockefeller, nor Carnegie, nor Astor, nor any 
other Transatlantic prince of finance, has a 
capital equal to that of the Rothschilds. It is 
estimated at more than four hundred million 
sterling, and it increases daily. It would be 
bound to increase even if they never engaged 
in another transaction, as, invested at an inter- 
est of not more than four per cent., their 
capital would yield more than 16,000,000 
yearly, or more than 45,000 a day. 

The mind almost reels in considering these 
colossal sums. Baron Albert of Vienna was 
guilty of no exaggeration when he said : " The 
house of the Rothschilds is so rich that it 
cannot do bad business." And this enormous 
fortune has been amassed by one family in the 
course of a single century. 




THE founder of the great Rothschild 
dynasty was a poor tradesman, born at Frank- 
fort on the Main at the beginning of the 
eighteenth century. His origin and ancestry 
cannot be traced with any confidence. We 
know only that he belonged to the Jewish 
nation, which, as Heine says, "came from 
Egypt, the land of crocodiles and priests, and 
brought with it, besides its skin-diseases and 
the stolen gold and silver vessels, a positive 
religion or church, a structure of dogmas to be 
believed and ceremonies to be performed, the 
prototype of later State-religions. Then began 
the plague of proselytism and religious com- 
pulsion, and all the horrors that have cost the 
human race so much blood and so many tears. 
This nation, with its primitive evils, has long 
been damned, and has suffered the torments 
C2 35 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

of the damned for centuries. What a land 
Egypt was ! Its products have defied time. 
Its pyramids are indestructible, its mummies as 
incorruptible as ever; and just as indestructible 
is that mummy of a people which wanders over 
the earth, swathed in its ancient documents, a 
petrified piece of history, a spectre that main- 
tains itself by money-changing and the sale of 
old clothes." 

At that time the Jews were more hardly 
treated in Frankfort than in any other German 
town. In the fourteenth century the fathers 
of the city had confined them in a "Jews' 
street," which was closed with chains every 
night. They also passed a law that not more 
than two Jewish couples were to marry every 
year, so concerned were they at the extraordin- 
ary industry, endurance, and increasing range 
of the children of the ghetto. For centuries 
the followers of Moses vegetated in this narrow 
street, and no one could have dreamed that 
from it a man would issue who would lay the 
foundation of the greatest financial power in 
the world. 

The Founder of the House 

For five centuries the Frankfort Jews 
struggled against their oppressors, and at last 
the hour of deliverance struck. With a stroke 
of the pen Napoleon lifted the yoke from their 
shoulders, and opened the other streets of the 
city to them. As soon as the French army had 
left the city, however, the citizens again took 
from them their liberty, and compelled the 
Jews to purchase it later at the price of about 

The ancestor of the Rothschilds, Amschel 
Moses, lived in Jew Street, in an overcrowded 
house. History tells us nothing further about 
him, and the most industrious research has dis- 
covered little more than that he was a Jewish 
hawker. The year of his birth cannot be 
determined, and even the origin of the name 
Rothschild is obscure. According to some it 
was derived from some town or other, as many 
Jewish families in Germany took their name 
from a place either their birth-place or the 
last place in which their fathers lived and 
were distinguished in this way from the other 
Jews in their new home. The Oppenheimers, 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Wieners, Pragers, Hamburgers, Frankfurters, 
and Berliners all Jewish families owe their 
names to this custom. 

According to others Rothschild comes from 
the Danish, and is taken from the place-name 
Roeskilde; but this is inconsistent with the 
fact that Amschel Moses had no surname. It 
is certain that he was a poor hawker, and it 
seems that he first dealt in curiosities and all 
sorts of things, in very distressing circum- 
stances, in the city of Hanover, and that he 
took the wanderer's staff in his hand when he 
found that he could make no headway. In his 
search for another dwelling he reached Frank- 
fort, settled in Jew Street, and put a red 
shield l over the door of his house. The houses 
had no numbers at that time, and some kind 
of sign was put over the door to distinguish the 
house and its inhabitants. Some of the shields 
bore the figure of a bear, a cock, a stag, a pike, 
or some other living thing. When the animal- 
world was exhausted, they had recourse to 

1 In German " rothcs schild," hence, it is suggested, the name 
Roth-schild (pronounced Rot-sheelt, not Roths-child, in our 
preposterous English way). Trans. 


The Founder of the House 

inanimate things, and painted a ship, a castle, 
a sickle, a star, or a bouquet on the board, for 
the purpose of identification. .When a house 
was mentioned, it was customary to name the 
figure on its shield, which was enough to 'dis- 
tinguish it. It is very probable that the name 
Rothschild arose in this simple way. 

In this house with the red shield, then, 
Maier Amschel, later the founder of the 
financial dynasty, saw the light. When he 
bought the house in 1780, it already had a 
number 69. The shield had in the meantime 
been painted green, but it remained "red 
[roth]" in the memory of the people, and so 
Maier Amschel was called Rothschild. His 
father, who had not succeeded in rising out of 
the class of trading Jews, had died on October 
6, 1754. Maier Amschel, the eldest son of 
Amschel Moses, was born in the year 1743, 
and was therefore only in his twelfth year when 
his father died. 

Very little is known about his childhood; 
hardly more than about the early years of any 
other child of the ghetto. Who gave any 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

thought to a boy of the " Street "? ; He was 
no different as yet from the others, and the 
Frankfort ghetto cannot possibly have dreamed 
that one of its children would become lord of 
war and peace, which depend so much on 

Maier Amschel was not at first destined for 
commercial life. His father sent the boy to 
the famous Talmud-school at Furth, but died 
soon afterwards. The boy would gladly have 
continued his theological studies, out of 
respect for the wish of his father and in accord 
with his own inclination, but the means were 
wanting and he had to abandon that career. At 
Furth, however, he had become interested in 
archeology, especially numismatics, and this 
not only enabled him to form excellent con- 
nections, but also to earn money. Returning 
from Furth, he tried at first to maintain his 
father's business, but he does not seem to have 
succeeded. Relying on his young strength, he 
tied up his bundle and went to Hanover, where 
his father had unsuccessfully sought to make 
his fortune. There he took a humble position 

The Founder of the House 

in the Oppenheimer bank, and soon won the 
confidence of his chief by his industry and 
modesty. Maier Amschel Rothschild worked 
for many years at his plain desk in the bank, 
and the master entrusted the former candidate 
for the position of rabbi with the conduct of 
various important concerns, which he managed 
so well that Oppenheimer at length took him 
into partnership. 

He could now look forward confidently to a 
future free from care, but the ambitious youth 
from Frankfort had other ideas. It is possible 
that he already dreamed of a vast banking 
business, to be founded by himself or some one 
of his blood. He felt that he was called to 
something higher than life in the service of 
another, and was convinced that his ability 
would yield far more if he were independent 
and worked on his own responsibility. He left 
Hanover and returned to his native town, and 
began at once to put his idea into execution. At 
Frankfort, one of the most important com- 
mercial towns of Germany, the situation at that 
time was particularly favourable to the develop- 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

merit of trade. The Frankfort markets were 
the most frequented in the country ; buyers and 
sellers flocked to them from all parts, and more 
than 50,000 foreign traders put in an appear- 
ance at the fair-time. 

Here began the real career of Maier Amschel 
Rothschild. His native town became the 
nucleus of his varied enterprises. His clear 
head for business and the punctuality and 
integrity with which he met his obligations soon 
attracted the interest of the wealthier traders, 
and it happened more than once that money- 
changers of Frankfort, Mayence, or Darm- 
stadt sought the co-operation of the young and 
insignificant beginner. He responded to these 
advances with the utmost discretion and 
honesty; his repute spread farther and farther, 
he won greater confidence, his income in- 
creased, and it was not long before he was able 
to buy a house at Frankfort in Jew Street, of 
course. He purchased the house with the 
green shield in which he had been cradled. 

Here, in the house which saw the birth of the 
later Caesars of the Rothschild dynasty, he 

The Founder of the House 

applied his unbending will and power of 
endurance to the enlargement of his business. 
For a long time, indeed, he was unable to rise 
above the crowd of third-rate business-men. 
But from his earliest years he had cultivated a 
taste for old coins and medals, as his father 
had initiated him to the knowledge of these 
things and often entrusted him with the task 
of exchanging them. The boy was interested 
in the period, value, and beauty of the old 
coins, and his interest did not fade in the course 
of time, but led him to acquire a very extensive 
knowledge of coins. Owing to his studies 
at Fiirth this knowledge was of a scientific 
character, and it at length brought him into 
contact with the Landgrave William IX of 
Hanau, afterwards Prince William I of Hesse. 
This connection enabled the indefatigable Jew 
to command a larger capital and increase his 
fortune. His reputation as a numismatist 
spread throughout the country and reached the 
ears of Baron Estorff, the confidential friend 
of the Landgrave of Hanau. He had known 
in Hanover of the extraordinary expertness of 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

the young Jew, and he drew the attention of 
the Landgrave to Rothschild. 

The way in which Maier Amschel Rothschild 
reached the Landgrave and the first impression 
that he made on this very wealthy noble gave a 
decided turn to his fortunes. General Baron 
Otto August Estorff, the intimate friend and 
adviser of the Landgrave, one day, during a 
dispute as to the origin of an old coin, men- 
tioned the name of Rothschild, and said that 
it was extremely important to obtain his opinion 
on the matter, if not to do financial business 
with him. On this advice Maier Amschel was 
summoned to the Landgrave's palace, and 
found that noble deep in a game of chess, 
when he arrived. Rothschild, who was ex- 
pected, had been admitted to the room by the 
servants, and, standing behind the Land- 
grave's chair, quietly watched the game. The 
Landgrave happened to turn round and 
notice the Jew waiting respectfully, and he 

"Do you play chess?" 

"Yes; and if Your Highness will kindly 

The Founder of the House 

make this move, the game will be decided in 
your favour in three moves." 

It was, as a matter of fact, a master-stroke 
that Rothschild recommended, and the Land- 
grave won the game. When it was over, he 
entered into conversation with the insignificant 
little Jew, and, when Rothschild had gone, he 
said to Baron Estorff 

" General, that is certainly no fool you have 
brought to me." 

" I trust Your Highness will be just as 
pleased with the other good qualities of 
Rothschild," said Baron Estorff. 

" I hope so, if he is as honest as he is clever," 
was the reply. 

That happened about the year 1785, in which 
the Landgrave acceded to the throne of his 
little kingdom. His business relations with 
Rothschild were for a time of no great con- 
sequence; the Jew merely obtained old coins 
and medals for the Landgrave and negotiated 
bills from London, which the Landgrave, like 
his father, received from the English Govern- 
ment for supplying soldiers. At that time 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

every German prince had the right to maintain 
any army he pleased, and this unrestricted 
power led to a very selfish traffic in men. 
Landgrave Karl of Hesse had started this 
traffic in human flesh, and by means of it raised 
his fortune to more than a million sterling. 
His grandson Frederick II had followed the 
footsteps of his "wise" ancestor and made a 
good deal out of this profitable business. After 
his death William IX did not hesitate to main- 
tain the traffic, and in the second year of his 
reign he contracted with England to supply 
12,000 men. For this he received more than 
80,000, which he added to the 2,500,000 
which his "glorious" predecessor had got for 
selling his subjects to the North American 

These immense sums, which made the young 
Landgrave and later Prince William one of 
the wealthiest monarchs of his time, were the 
direct occasion of the rise of the Rothschilds 
to the position, which they held for half a 
century, of the " sixth great Power in Europe." 
William IX wished to invest his money in the 

The Founder of the House 

most profitable way, and kept quite a staff of 
agents for the purpose. Rothschild was one 
of this staff, and he found plenty of oppor- 
tunities to prove his ability and show that he 
deserved the confidence granted him. His 
confidence was at that time the chief capital of 
the founder of the Rothschild dynasty, and 
William IX gave it him without reserve. 

On the strength of this confidence Roth- 
schild, in 1789, asked the prince, who had now 
been living at Cassel for four years as the suc- 
cessor of his father, to entrust him, like the 
Hanau bankers, with the sale of the English 
bills of exchange, reminding him of the many 
years he had served him. The Landgrave, 
however, was extremely prudent in money- 
matters; he was not satisfied with the personal 
impression which his agents made on him, but 
made exhaustive inquiries before he would 
grant such a request as that of Rothschild. 
From good authorities at Frankfort and Hanau 
he learned that Rothschild always had good 
credit with the Hanau brokers and thoroughly 
deserved it. He could secure the highest terms 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

in exchange and was regarded as an industrious 
and honest man, so that, on business principles, 
one could safely grant him the credit he asked. 
In consequence of this report Rothschild was 
granted a credit of eight hundred pounds ster- 
ling, and, as he served the Landgrave well, the 
credit was gradually enlarged until he sur- 
passed all his rivals. He had still, neverthe- 
less, the modest title of "court-agent," while 
the Jewish banker at Cassel, David Feiwel, 
was " upper court-agent." The members of the 
firm of Riippel & Harnier, at Frankfort, alone 
had the rank of "court-bankers." Maier 
Amschel only became " upper court-agent " in 
1 80 1, his eldest sons, Anselm and Solomon, 
being at the same time appointed agents of the 
Ministry of War. The third son, Nathan, had 
already gone to England, and the youngest two, 
Karl and James, knew nothing as yet of rank 
and title, but enjoyed the golden age of care- 
free childhood. Maier Amschel had already a 
large family, and, when the lamp was lit at 
nights, he and his wife found ten children 

gathered about them. 

The Founder of the House 

In the meantime, the financial transactions 
of the Landgrave had attained a much wider 
range, and his business with the English money 
had assumed entirely the form of a banking 
operation. The large vaults of the residence 
at Cassel always contained an immense quan- 
tity of coin, often more than 100,000, which 
might at any time be invested in profitable 
undertakings. Besides this, the Landgrave 
had large deposits in the banks of London and 
Amsterdam. At London the firm of Van 
Notten operated with the Landgrave's money, 
and in the course of twelve years they had more 
than 100,000 in the English Funds, besides a 
number of large and small loans to private 
individuals of all classes, from superior officials 
and officers to shoemakers and bakers. The 
Landgrave also granted loans to his fellow- 
princes, and Rothschild had a good deal to 
do with these financial negotiations. 

William IX was regarded as one of the 
greatest capitalists of the time, so that any 
prince who needed money naturally turned to 

him. How these things were done is best seen 
D 49 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

in a negotiation with Denmark in the year 1784. 
The Danish court needed money, and in- 
structed its confidential agent, named Wachter, 
to ask the Cassel court for a loan. William IX 
was then only heir to the throne, but the 
financial advisers who controlled the affairs of 
the old Landgrave refused to come to a de- 
cision until they heard the opinion, of the prince. 
When Wachter heard this, he at once went to 
Hanau to see the heir to the throne. The latter 
was, like his father, not well disposed toward 
transactions with important ruling houses, on 
account of the bitter experience that the family 
had had in such matters. This the prince 
bluntly told the Danish agent, who used his 
utmost powers of persuasion to remove the 
resistance of the prince, and tried to convince 
him that there was not the least risk, but con- 
siderable advantage, in the loan, as it would 
put an influential ruling house under obliga- 
tions to him and secure its most friendly con- 
sideration. All his eloquence was useless, and 
Wachter could make no headway until, follow- 
ing the court-custom of the time, he loaded the 

The Founder of the House 

prince's children with valuable presents, and 
promised to repeat his generosity if the heir to 
the throne placed no obstacles in his way with 
the old Landgrave. That was enough. The 
Crown Prince at once gave his consent, saying 
that he would be pleased to see the Danish 
request granted. Pleased with his success, 
Wachter hastened to Cassel, but there found 
himself opposed by a whole regiment of 
generals, ministers and councillors. They 
formed the Landgrave's " Council of War," and 
would not allow the Danish agent to make any 
progress until he had "paid his footing" with 
each of them. 

William IX did not care for direct negotia- 
tions; his interest had often to be aroused by 
a third person before he would do anything. 
His financial affairs were controlled by a 
directive council consisting of four members, 
who received a commission of one per cent, on 
every loan, besides the presents made to them. 
That suited them very well, and, as they re- 
ceived bribes and gifts in connection with every 
transaction, they would only enter into deals 

D2 51 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

with speedy repayment, in order to add to their 
gains. This circumstance explains the reluct- 
ance of princes and higher nobles to enter into 
direct negotiations with the Hesse court; they 
always used an experienced agent, as the prince 
himself afterwards liked to do. Thus, as both 
parties felt that it was desirable to have an 
experienced intermediary whom they could 
always trust, a number of agents won the favour 
of William IX, and one of those who were 
found worthy of this favour was Maier Amschel 

Rothschild did not owe this entirely to his 
merits. He would never have been recognised 
on that account at the court of William IX, 
where every one was grasping and corruptible, 
if he had not shrewdly appreciated the situa- 
tion. He enlisted influential officials in his 
interest, and allowed the directive council to 
have its share in his profits, as the Landgrave 
would do nothing without this council. Gradu- 
ally he succeeded so well that at length it was 
most profitable to the prince's advisers if all 
the best transactions were put into the hands 

The Founder of the House 

of Rothschild; it was of advantage to him and 
to them. 

As early as 1801 Rothschild received a loan 
of 14,000 from William IX at four per cent., 
but it was not until a year later that he secured 
a very important piece of business, when he 
changed 10,000 worth of four and a half per 
cent. Bavarian stock into bonds of the city of 
Frankfort at the same rate. In such matters 
he had a way of his own, as we find best in the 
Danish documents. The Danish Ministry of 
Finance, which up to 1780 placed its stock 
abroad, generally used Amsterdam for the pur- 
pose; afterwards it engaged the services very 
frequently of the great Frankfort bankers, the 
brothers Bethmann. In the year 1804 they 
were to sell the remainder of one of these 
Danish loans, but found it impossible to do so, 
partly on account of the political situation, and 
partly on account of the scarcity of money. At 
the end of October there was a chance of 
placing a few hundred thousand dollars, but 
at a loss of eight per cent. Meantime, however, 
a far better offer was made to Copenhagen by 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

the Altona banker Lawaetz, whose resources 
were much greater than those of Bethmann 
Brothers. It was clear that the offer was made 
on behalf of a third person. Lawaetz did not 
deny this, but would on no account give the 
name of his client. As a matter of fact, it was 
the son of the Frankfort ghetto, Maier Amschel 
Rothschild. He was not, of course, using 
money of his own; William IX was behind 
him, and this was the real reason for the secrecy. 
It was probably Rothschild who let the 
Danish court have ; 12,000 in 1802, but no one 
knew in Copenhagen whence the money came. 
Then Lawaetz offered twice that sum, observing 
that his client was a Frankfort man who did 
not wish the bankers of that city to know any- 
thing of the business, and therefore wanted the 
bonds sent direct to Cassel, where the money 
would be paid at once. Although Rothschild 
did not allow his name to appear in the matter, 
the fact that Cassel was to be the place of 
payment shows us the source of the money. 
When the business was finally settled, however, 
Lawaetz directed that the coupons should be 

The Founder of the House 

sent to the upper court-agent Maier Amschel 

Rothschild, who would deliver the money. 

From this the Danish ministers could easily 

conclude who was the real agent. 

Lawaetz had said, in making the offer : " The 
leaner is a very wealthy capitalist, and is very 
well disposed toward the Danish court; it might 
be possible to obtain larger sums on better 
terms." In point of fact, larger sums were 
afterwards advanced to Denmark in the same 
way, and by the year 1806 the loans amounted 
to nearly 250,000. The terms, however, were 
not easier, but much harder, on account of the 
general scarcity of money. The very menacing 
political conditions also added to the nervous- 
ness of the Hesse court, and a new Danish 
State-loan at the beginning of 1806 almost 
failed. On this occasion Rothschild himself 
went frequently to Hamburg and Mecklenburg; 
he took the money with him, and the negotia- 
tions were almost concluded when the Danish 
authorities declared that they could not accept 
the terms. Later, however, a loan of about 
110,000 was negotiated with Lawaetz, and in 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

this contract the name of Rothschild appeared 
openly for the first time as an agent of Cassel. 

Shortly afterwards Bethmann Brothers made 
the Danish court a somewhat better offer of a 
loan of 41,000. They found themselves, 
however, unable to keep their promise and to 
meet other obligations ; indeed, they had to ask 
the return of a small advance that they had 
made to Denmark in February of that year. 
That strengthened the reliance on Rothschild, 
with whom such things never happened, for he 
always kept his word to the letter, no matter 
how the political conditions affected the money- 
market. Once more he came to the assistance 
of Denmark, which had been put in a very 
difficult position by the failure of the Beth- 
manns, and let them have 40,000 or 50,000 
through Lawaetz of Altona. 

It was in the year 1806 that Rothschild's star 
began to shine with greater splendour. The 
Danish loans had considerably increased the 
capital of Maier Amschel, and, what was far 
more important, he enjoyed the unqualified and 
unwavering confidence of William IX. This 

The Founder of the House 

was of the greatest consequence to Rothschild 
in that eventful age. William was compelled 
by the French invasion to fly from his country 
and entrust a large part of his wealth to Roths- 
child, who, in co-operation with his son Nathan 
at London, took care safely to invest the 
prince's wealth. It was not merely on account 
of the danger to his fortune that William IX 
fled before the French ; the real reason was that 
he was opposed to all foreign politics and to 
the French in particular. It is true that in the 
sale of soldiers he was chiefly influenced by 
pecuniary considerations, yet he had contracted 
to let England have 12,000 men who, he knew, 
were to fight against the French in the pay of 
England. In this he had given another proof 
of his hatred of the French, a sentiment which 
he had expressed in the following words in the 
first years of Napoleon's reign : " I would rather 
be a Prussian general than a king by the grace 
of Napoleon." 

The French were fully informed of William's 
sentiments, and he in turn knew what Napoleon 
intended to do to him. Hence, when the 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

French took the field against Prussia and 
Russia, he dreaded the anger of the Corsican 
and fled from the country. At first he went to 
his elder brother at Schleswig, and soon after- 
wards, in 1808, began to live at Prague, where 
he was painfully surprised to learn that 
Napoleon had issued the following bulletin 

' The house of Hesse-Cassel has sold its 
subjects to England for many years, and the 
prince has made large sums of money by this 
means. This shameful avarice puts an end to 
his house. It has ceased to reign." 

The first care of William IX, when he fled 
from his residence in Hesse, had been to save 
the enormous store of money which he had 
acquired, partly by inheritance, partly in the 
"honest manner" we have described. As he 
had absolute confidence in Maier Amschel, he 
felt that he could not leave his treasure in safer 
hands, though he also entrusted large sums to 
other individuals. There are various and con- 
tradictory versions of the amount which he 
confided to the care of Rothschild. According 
to some, the amount which Rothschild is sup- 


The Founder of the House 

posed to have buried in his garden at Frankfort 
was about a quarter of a million sterling. There 
is some mistake in this report, as at that time 
no Jew was allowed to own land in Frankfort 
or the surrounding country. Rothschild cer- 
tainly had a house in Jew Street, but there was 
no room for a garden there. The " Street " was 
so narrow that the causeway for foot-passengers 
was only a few feet in width. It was quite im- 
possible for a carriage to draw up before the 

The treasures of William IX, which Roths- 
child preserved very loyally, might easily have 
proved dangerous to him. On January 28, 
1806, Marshal Augereau besieged Frankfort, 
and, as the citizens were accused of receiving 
English goods and protecting dangerous Eng- 
lish agents, the marshal imposed on the city a 
contribution of four million francs. The wealth 
of William IX and even the life of Rothschild 
were in grave danger during that period. If 
the French had learned where the dethroned 
prince had deposited his fortune, they would 
certainly not have hesitated to appropriate it, 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

and Maier Amschel would have been severely 
punished for concealing it. 

A reliable contemporary and eye-witness, the 
famous historian Schlosser, who lived in Frank- 
fort at that time, writes as follows about the 
prince's wealth and the way in which Rothschild 
concealed it 

" All of us who then put our trust in Frankfort 
and Prussia and admired their manifesto were 
glad that, within a fortnight of the prince de- 
claring himself neutral in the struggle against 
Napoleon, a punishment fell on him, and we only 
regretted that a sense of duty prevented us from 
telling the French that his ill-gotten gold was 
stored in Amschel Rothschild's cellar. It was 
hidden in Rothschild's wine-casks, as the decree 
of Napoleon had closed the Continent against 
England, and that country had ordered re- 
prisals, so that nothing could be taken to 
England from German ports." 

The legend given in Schlosser's words does 
not square with the facts. Tradition is apt to 
give an interesting and often a fantastic turn 
to facts, and in this case it departs from the 

The Founder of the House 

truth. It is a fact that, when William IX fled 
from his little realm, he entrusted part of his 
money to Rothschild. But although according 
to Schlosser and others Maier Amschel hid the 
whole of it in his garden and his wine-casks, we 
have documentary evidence that these stories 
are at variance with the historical truth. It is 
possible that Rothschild hid part of the money 
in his cellar, but he was far too shrewd a 
business-man to let such an enormous capital 
lie fallow, especially at a time when gold was 
so scarce, and money could be invested with the 
greatest security at a very high rate of interest. 
Hence, before the French troops barred the 
way, Rothschild sent as much as he could of the 
Landgrave's money, as speedily as possible, to 
his son Nathan in London. 

" We had no time to lose," Nathan Rothschild 
afterwards said, " and my father sent the money 
to me in England. On one single occasion I 
received 600,000 from him by post, and I 
invested this so profitably that the prince after- 
wards sent me the whole of his stores of wine 
and linen." 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

We thus learn from the words of Nathan, 
Maier Amschel's third son, that the prince en- 
trusted to his Frankfort agent the enormous 
sum of 600,000. But it is further clear from 
Nathan's words that, owing to the breach of 
communication, his father did not succeed in 
sending the whole of the prince's money to 
London. It is certain, therefore, that the 
money confided to Maier Amschel amounted 
to more than 600,000. But the prince's for- 
tune was much larger than this, not including 
precious stones. It is probable enough that the 
treasure which Maier Amschel hid in his cellar 
or garden consisted of these jewels, which could 
not be conveyed to London. 

However that may be, the older Rothschild 
was fated never to restore this immense treasure 
to the hands of William IX. When William 
was at last free to return to his dominion, in 
the year 1813, Maier Amschel Rothschild 
had already passed to the realm of eternal 

The prince had, however, not to deplore 

the loss of his money; Maier Amschel's sons 

The Founder of the House 


handed it over to him with considerable interest. 
The prince, who had almost regarded his 
treasure as lost, was the more surprised at this 
conduct, natural as it was, since he had not been 
accustomed to finding such honesty in his 
agents. The Rothschilds did not suffer for 
their honesty. The prince hastened to tell in 
every court in Europe how the Rothschild 
brothers had repaid with high interest the 
money he had entrusted to their father, and this 
won confidence for them, and laid the founda- 
tion of their financial greatness. 

And the nearer they approached the courts 
of princes and saw their repute and capital 
grow, the more carefully they sought oppor- 
tunities to find an outlet for their spirit of 
philanthropy. They had inherited this spirit 
from their father, who had always had quite 
a court of poor people about him. Maier 
Amschel had a way of his own of giving alms. 
As a devout Jew he believed that God is most 
pleased with those gifts for which the giver 
receives no thanks. He therefore went through 
the ghetto during the night, hurriedly thrust a 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

few pieces into the hand of the first needy man 
he met, and disappeared before the man could 
mutter his thanks. 

As Frankfort became the capital of the re- 
erected principality, the large-hearted prince 
granted the Jews the full rights of citizenship. 
Rothschild was appointed member of the 
Election Council as a recognition of his merits, 
but he had no opportunity to enjoy the dignity, 
as he died on September 19, 1812, in the 
seventieth year of his age. 

When he felt that death was approaching, 
he gathered his five sons about him and ex- 
horted them to work in union, and to discuss 
and carry out in common all their affairs. They 
must never abandon the religion of their fathers, 
and must ask the advice of their mother as long 
as she lived. And in order to preserve this 
unity in later generations, they must always 
choose wives in their own family. 

The five Rothschild brothers and their chil- 
dren were loyal to their father. The youngest 
of them, James, the founder of the Paris firm, 
married his niece Betty, the daughter of his 

The Founder of the House 

elder brother Solomon. They still follow this 
family tradition as far as possible. 

The wealth of the Rothschilds has become 
proverbial. Every undertaking of importance 
was planned and carried out in common, and 
even now the three Rothschild firms at Paris, 
London, and Vienna co-operate in every large 
transaction. As long as the mother, the kindly 
and intelligent little Frau Gudula, lived, her 
sons came to her from every quarter Naples, 
London, Paris, and Vienna whenever there 
was an important family or business concern to 
be discussed. And there, by the mother's side, 
in the Jewish house with the green shield, 
scarcely twenty years after the father's death, 
decisions were reached which had a profound 
influence on States and their rulers. More than 
once the issue of peace or war depended on 
them. The prosperity or misery of whole 
countries was in their hands, and even at that 
time the children of the Frankfort ghetto 
removed ministers and governments. 

The aged mother, who saw the influence of 

her sons increasing daily, rejoiced to see the 

E 65 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

power to which she had given birth. Once a 
Frankfort woman, not of the highest class of 
society, came to her to complain. 

" War is breaking out," she moaned, " and 
they will take my only son, as I cannot pay the 
money to release him from military service." 

The aged Gudula smilingly consoled the dis- 
tressed mother with the words 

" Do not be afraid; there will not be war. . . . 
My sons will not provide the money for it." 

This may seem at first sight to be a rather 
comical boast on the part of the old lady, yet 
it is an incontestable truth that money is needed 
for war, and that the Rothschilds meant 
" money." The star of the five sons of Gudula 
rose higher and higher, and the silver-haired 
mother of the Rothschilds, of whom Heine 
speaks with such feeling in reproducing a con- 
versation with Borne, shared their greatness. 
The two German poets were walking one even- 
ing through Jew Street at Frankfort. 

" Look here," said Borne, according to 
Heine, pointing to one of the houses; "in this 
little house lives the aged lady, the Laetitia, 

The Founder of the House 

who gave birth to so many Napoleons of 
finance, the grandmother of all loans. In spite 
of the power of her royal sons she refuses to 
leave her humble dwelling in Jew Street, and 
she has decorated her windows with white 
curtains to-day on account of the great festival. 
The lamps, which she has lit with her own 
hands, shine cheerfully for the October 18 of 
the Jews, which is still celebrated after a lapse 
of two thousand years, while the Leipsic festival 
of October 18 is not yet fifteen years old, yet is 
almost forgotten; the Jews remember the time 
when Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers fought 
for the deliverance of their country just as 
bravely as Frederick William, Alexander, and 
Francis did in our time. When the good 
woman looks at these lamps, her aged eyes fill 
with tears, and she sadly recalls the earlier days 
when Maier Amschel, her dear spouse, joined 
with her in the feast of lamps; when her sons 
were still boys, and placed small lamps on the 
ground, and jumped about them in childish 
glee, as is the custom in Israel. The older 
Rothschild, the founder of the ruling dynasty, 

E 2 67 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

was a good man, the very embodiment of piety 
and kindliness. He had a gentle face, with a 
pointed beard, and a three-cornered hat on his 
head; his clothes were more than modest 
almost poor. He went about Frankfort in this 
way, always surrounded by a crowd of poor 
folk, like a court, to whom he gave alms or good 
advice; whenever you met a crowd of beggars 
on the street with smiling faces, you knew that 
old Rothschild had just passed that way." 

The sons of the aged and kind-hearted 
Gudula were already barons, but still Jews. 
Their name then stood for absolute financial 
power, and her salon was filled with the choicest 
spirits and the elite of society. It gave the 
aged Frau Gudula great pleasure to see these 
proofs of unprecedented success, but it did not 
in the least alter the puritanically simple char- 
acter of the white-haired little woman. Her 
sons gradually moved into the aristocratic 
quarters of Frankfort, Paris, and London, and 
became barons and consuls, but the aged 
Gudula would not leave the house in which her 

husband had died. There she was sheltered 

The Founder of the House 

from the cares and agitations of the world, and 
there she trusted, in turn, to lay down her fine- 
featured head in her last slumber. 

" The mother of the Rothschilds, the Hecuba 
of the European Croesus family," said a con- 
temporary before her death, "might be nearly 
a hundred years old, but is so well preserved 
that she goes to the theatre nearly every night. 
There she sits, listening attentively, in the pro- 
scenium-box, with a guard in her hand to keep 
off the glare of the lamps, an ancient Hebrew 
cap, adorned with flowers, on her head, no hair 
visible, dressed in bright-coloured silk, with 
costly lace on her neck and breast. Of her 
sons, Anselm resembles her most. Both they 
and her daughters have the greatest respect for 
her. She still lives in Jew Street, in the same 
rooms in which, as the wife of a modest trader, 
she brought her sons into the world. She will 
never leave these high and sombre rooms, in 
the dampest and most unhealthy part of the 

" Here," she used to say, " I have seen my 
sons grow rich and powerful, and I will leave 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

them their prosperity, for they would certainly 
lose it if I were to give way to pride and quit 
my humble home." 

Her motherly heart, inclined to superstition 
what mother does not watch the fate of her 
children with superstitious fear? saw the for- 
tune of her children intimately connected with 
the modest house in Jew Street. The house 
and the street were so unhealthy that the sons 
repeatedly tried to induce their aged and dear 
and superstitious mother to leave it and take 
up her residence with one of themselves. But, 
with the characteristic obstinacy of an old lady, 
she would on no account consent. As she 
would not go to the sons, they came to her. 
Every night, when the day's work was over, 
they went to the mother's house in Jew Street, 
which was so narrow that their elegant carriages 
had to remain at the corner and they had, like 
their mother when she came home from the 
theatre, to walk to the house on foot. 

Maier Amschel's widow enjoyed perfect 
health until her ninetieth year; it was only in 
her later years that she began to ail, and that 

The Founder of the House 

was merely due to advancing age. Even when 
her frame threatened to relax in its service, her 
spirit maintained its freshness, so that, even 
when she was not well, she used to joke with 
her sons and the physician. She was not 
satisfied with the medicines sent to her, and 
told the physician. 

" For heaven's sake," said the physician, 
perhaps a little piqued, " what do you want me 
to do? Unfortunately, neither I nor my drugs 
can restore your lost youth." 

" Dear doctor, you misunderstand me," the 
invalid said, smiling quietly ; " I want your 
drugs to make me older, not younger." 

And she lived to be four years older. In 
her ninety-fourth year she followed her spouse 
to the grave, closing her gentle and winning 
eyes for ever on May 7, 1849. 

Her happy marriage with Maier Amschel, 
with whom she lived peacefully for forty-two 
years in the house of the green shield, issued in 
ten children, five sons and five daughters. The 
daughters Charlotte, Isabella, Babette, Julie 
and Henriette married into the .Worms, 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Beyfuss, Sichel and Montefiore families. Of 
her sons James was the founder of the Parisian 
house, Charles of the Neapolitan, Nathan of 
the London, and Solomon of that at Vienna. 
The eldest, Anselm, continued the ancestral 
house of the Rothschilds at Frankfort. 

The sons of the aged Maier Amschel Roths- 
child had become princes of finance in five 
great cities. And these five cities stand for the 
five kingdoms which fell under the rule of the 
children of the Frankfort ghetto, the sons of 
the man who wished to be a Jewish rabbi. 




IT is unquestionable that Nathan, the third 
of the five brothers, was the most gifted intel- 
lectually. His splendid business instinct and 
the clear-headedness which enabled him to 
appreciate at once the full significance of any 
event of commercial life made him the chief 
worker in building up the greatness and 
prestige of the Rothschilds. He had hardly 
been two decades in London when he enjoyed 
the unlimited confidence of the British Govern- 
ment, on account of the great services he 
had rendered it, and he retained it during the 
fifty years of his active life. Nathan was the 
founder of the great London house, although 
he was not the first Rothschild to stretch an 
arm across the sea from Frankfort to England. 
Old Maier Amschel himself had done business 
with London. His first connection in London 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

was the sale of bills in conjunction with the 
Van Notten firm; this became more important 
when the Prince of Hesse-Cassel began to use 
the Frankfort Jew as his agent and hand over 
to him the interest on the money deposited in 
the London bank, as well as the sums which 
were paid him for sending troops to North 
America on behalf of England. When the 
elder Rothschild had earned the entire con- 
fidence of the prince by his honest and profit- 
able manipulation of the sums entrusted to 
him, he prevailed upon him to appoint his third 
son Nathan, who had meantime gone to 
London, his agent in that city. 

Maier Amschel had been very far-seeing 
in choosing London out of all the cities of 
Europe for a filial establishment, and in the 
course of time it far surpassed in import- 
ance all the other houses, even that at Paris 
and the ancestral house at Frankfort. The 
financial situation in England and the ever- 
increasing range of its commerce had much to 
do with this. The choice of London proved 
to be a most fortunate stroke, justified from 

St. Swilhin's Lane, London, E.C. 

(House on the left with ornamental han^inu siijn.) 

The English Rothschilds 

every point of view. But it also gained in 
importance from the fact that the elder Roths- 
child selected his son Nathan for the post, for 
in Nathan the business ability of the Roths- 
childs reached its highest development. 

It was the year 1798 when Nathan Roths- 
child came to England and, at first, occupied 
himself with the purchase of Manchester goods 
in his father's name. This experience was very 
useful to him, as it made him familiar with 
financial conditions in England and the chief 
factors of English trade and commerce. 
Afterwards large sums from the capital of the 
Prince of Hesse were put at his disposal, and 
he invested them so intelligently that his 
working capital began to assume extraordinary 
dimensions. He soon extended the range of 
his operations over the entire Continent, and 
began to make his influence felt everywhere in 
commercial life. In this way the Rothschild 
house began to show promise of becoming a 
world-power. Nowhere in Europe had there 
hitherto been financial operations on a scale 
equal to that on which young Nathan Roths- 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

child worked. This does not apply, of course, 
to the commencement of his career, as he only 
began to emerge out of obscurity when, at the 
outbreak of the Spanish war, he undertook the 
payment of the English army in Spain. From 
that time his relations with the Bank of 
Ertgland and the Exchange increased, and it 
was not long before he occupied a dominant 
position on the Exchange. 

After the death of Maier Amschel the lion's 
share of the activity of the Rothschilds fell 
to Nathan, and we have ample and reliable 
proof how he accomplished his task, and with 
what marvellous good fortune his efforts were 
crowned. The evidence does not come from 
his own pen, it is true, but it is just as trust- 
worthy as if it did. In a conversation which 
he had with Sir Thomas Powell Buxton in 
1834, when he was already an irresistible power 
on the Exchange, he told his guest the most 
interesting episodes of his stormy past. 
Buxton, who was then conducting an ardent 
crusade against slavery, and was destined to 
play a great part in abolishing it, was a guest 

The English Rothschilds 

in the house of the London financier, the 
uncrowned king of the money market, and 
Nathan described his early successes with the 
freshness of a man who was not spoiled by his 
later victories and looked back with satisfaction 
on the past. 

" There was not room for us all in Frank- 
fort," he said. " I dealt in English goods. 
One great trader came there, who had the 
market all to himself. He was quite the great 
man, and did us a favour if he sold us goods. 
Somehow I offended him, and he refused to 
show me his patterns. This was on a Tuesday. 
I said to my father : ' I will go to England.' 
I could speak nothing but German. On the 
Thursday I started. The nearer I got to 
England, the cheaper the goods were. As 
soon as I got to Manchester I laid out all my 
money, things were so cheap, and I made a 
good profit. I soon found out there were three 
profits the raw material, the dyeing, and the 
manufacturing. I said to the manufacturer : 
' I will supply you with material and dye, and 
you supply me manufactured goods.' So I got 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

three profits instead of one, and I could sell 
goods cheaper than anybody. In a short time 
I made my 20,000 into 60,000. My success 
all turned on one maxim. I said : ' I can do 
what another man can, and I am a match 
for the man with the patterns and all the 
rest of them.' I had another advantage. I 
am an off-hand man; I made a bargain at 

This beginning of Nathan Rothschild's 
mercantile career in England must be fixed 
somewhere about the year 1800, when a 
number of German merchants went to live at 
Manchester. Nathan, however, soon decided 
to leave the north for London, where he felt 
that he would have better opportunities. We 
cannot determine the exact year of his settling 
in London; it was probably 1806, when he 
received a large sum of money from the Hesse 
Court, and married Hannah, the daughter of 
Barnett Cohen Levi. He had considerable 
difficulty in securing her hand, as, at the time 
when he courted her, he was still a com- 
paratively small trader, and Barnett Cohen, 


The English Rothschilds 

who was wealthy, strongly opposed the engage- 
ment, so that at his first request Maier 
AmschePs third son ran some risk of being 
put out of the door. He was, however, a 
resolute and tenacious man, and nothing could 
turn him aside from his purpose. Barnett 
Cohen meantime learned the extraordinary 
ability of his would-be son-in-law, and saw that 
he would have a brilliant career. He was not 
deceived, as a great future awaited Rothschild 
in London, where Van Notten had hitherto 
been the exclusive agent of the Hesse Court, 
but was shortly afterwards displaced by the 
twenty-eight-year-old son of Maier Amschel. 

" When I settled in London," Nathan Roths- 
child continued, " the East India Company 
had eight hundred thousand pounds' worth of 
gold to sell. I went to the sale and bought it 
all. I knew the Duke of Wellington must 
have it ; I had bought a great many of his bills 
at a discount. The Government sent for me 
and said that they must have it. When they 
had got it, they did not know how to get it to 
Portugal. I undertook all that, and sent it 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

through France. It was the best business that 
I have ever done." 

This transaction, on which Nathan Roths- 
child looked back with so much satisfaction, 
must have taken place after the year 1808. At 
that time the Duke of Wellington had to 
contend against the greatest calamities in 
regard to money. Everything had to be paid 
for in cash, and it was only with considerable 
loss that he could convert into cash the bills 
sent from the Treasury. This made the British 
Government anxious to send the money in coin 
to the seat of war, but, on account of the con- 
tinental blockade and the constant fear of 
being captured by the French, the consign- 
ments were in great danger. The Government 
were not a little obliged when Nathan Roths- 
child yielded to them the East India Com- 
pany's gold, but he did them a far greater 
service in undertaking to send it out at his own 
expense and risk. He had his reward, but it 
was a bold and masterly undertaking, involv- 
ing four different operations : the purchase of 
Wellington's bills, the finding of the gold, the 

The English Rothschilds 

sale of it, and the transport of the gold to 
Portugal. The fourfold profit richly rewarded 
Rothschild for the risk he had run. His 
fundamental principle came into play just as 
in his purchase of Manchester goods; the 
difference was that in one case he was dealing 
with manufactured goods and in the other with 
extremely delicate State business. 

It goes without saying that he only decided 
to undertake these matters after mature reflec- 
tion. He bought .Wellington's bills because 
they were cheap ; probably he got them directly 
from the agents, a discounting company that 
had the name of " Cab," and consisted of a 
Maltese, a Sicilian, and a Spanish group of 
bankers. This company exploited the difficult 
position of the British Government in the most 
shameless way. The most difficult part of 
Rothschild's bargain was to convey the gold 
through hostile territory to Portugal. He suc- 
ceeded in an extraordinary degree, but here we 
are without details. We can, however, form 
some idea of it from a transaction of the year 
1813, when England again wanted to send coin 
F 81 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

to Wellington. On this occasion Rothschild 
worked out a plan which he submitted to the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Vansittart, 
through the chief clerk Herries. At that time 
the name of Nathan Rothschild was not well 
known in English official circles, but the plan 
was so excellently worked out that it was 
adopted, on condition of the utmost secrecy. 
Rothschild then went to Holland or Germany, 
and his agents everywhere, even in Paris, 
changed a considerable sum of gold into 
smaller French money, which was exported by 
these confidential agents without being noticed. 
These quantities of French money were then 
conveyed by Rothschild, in various consign- 
ments and by different routes, so quickly to 
Wellington's quarters that he was able to press 
on victoriously and pay for everything in cash, 
while the allies who were advancing from the 
east had the greatest difficulties to overcome in 
regard to money. Herries, in his secret report, 
warmly praised Rothschild's zeal and ability, 
and especially commented on his discretion, as 
no one had the least knowledge of the affairs 

The English Rothschilds 

on the Exchange. In this way the Government 
was able through him to secure the bills that 
had gone to the Netherlands and Frankfort to 
the extent of 70x3,000 without lowering the 
English rate of exchange. He, Herries, was 
convinced that if this had been done only to 
the extent of 100,000 through an official of 
the Treasury or a continental agent, it would 
have caused a sensation and a serious fall of 
the rate on the Exchange. 

From this time onward the British Govern- 
ment entrusted Nathan Rothschild with all its 
larger financial operations, so that his business 
began to assume an even more imposing char- 
acter. First he bought on their behalf two 
hundred thousand pounds' worth of bills at 
Paris, which were needed to cover the cost of 
the journey of Louis XVIII and his corona- 
tion. It was soon perceived on the Exchange 
what excellent sources of information Roths- 
child had in political and financial matters, and 
the more imaginative members surrounded him 
with quite a halo of legends. As a matter of 
fact, the way in which he received information 

F2 83 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

was not without romance. Amongst other 
things he had a very efficient postal service of 
carrier-pigeons, and these kept him in constant 
touch with Paris and Frankfort. Then he gave 
a strict order to the captains of vessels that had 
business relations with him to send him the 
latest news from all parts, and he rewarded 
them generously. 

In this way it once happened that a captain 
brought him a copy of a Dutch journal 
announcing some great victory of the English 
troops. Rothschild at once went to the Treasury 
and informed Lord Liverpool, without telling 
the source of his information. They laughed 
at his " good news," as a defeat of the English 
had been communicated the day before; but 
the accuracy of his information was proved a 
few days afterwards, and his reputation was 

The Rothschilds rendered great service to 
all the European Powers, especially England, 
during the "hundred days." When it was 
known that Napoleon had returned, Herries at 
once turned to Rothschild to provide gold. 

The English Rothschilds 

Acting on the maxim that " necessity knows no 
law," Rothschild did not scruple to mint 
French money without first involving himself 
in lengthy diplomatic correspondence with 
Louis XVIII for permission. There was no 
time for reflection. Prussia had to contend 
with such grave financial difficulties that 
Bliicher was compelled, at Namur on May 16, 
to clear the bills he had on London on his own 
responsibility, with great loss, as Wellington 
had done in the same circumstances. The 
financial minister, Billow, had gone to London 
in the middle of April to press for an advance 
of at least 100,000, but Herries was on the 
Continent, and nothing could be done without 
him. Returning from Brussels to London at 
the end of April, he at once paid 200,000 
through Rothschild, to the very agreeable 
astonishment of Billow, who described the act 
as a service of the greatest moment, and 
warmly pressed Greuhm, the agent of Prussia, 
to keep on good terms with Herries. As it 
was now known at Berlin that Nathan Roths- 
child had a good deal to do with English 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

affairs, Billow told Greuhm to take advantage 
of his influence on the cabinet. The child of 
the Frankfort ghetto had now made such pro- 
digious strides that even the powerful Prussian 
minister had to reckon with him. 

Berlin came into direct relations with the 
Rothschilds for the first time when Solomon 
personally conveyed the 200,000 to the 
Prussian capital. Billow gratefully recognised 
the conduct of the brothers, and, when more 
money was needed and he was compelled to 
address himself to the Rothschilds, Solomon 
at once, without waiting to consult his brother 
Nathan, let him have 150,000. In the end 
Solomon did so much for them that he was 
awarded the title of Commercial Councillor by 

To what extent English money circulated at 
that time, and what part the Rothschilds played 
in the business, we learn from two extensive 
reports made by Herries in 1816 and 1822. 
According to the details which he gives, the 
Rothschilds paid nearly 18,000,000 on the 

Continent from the spring of 1814 onward, and 

The English Rothschilds 

on much better terms than they had had before. 
It was no less a merit on their part that they 
paid out these enormous sums without lowering 
the value of English securities, and thus saved 
the kingdom at least half a million sterling. 

" It is possible," said Herries, " that I should 
have been unable to make these payments on 
the Continent without the assistance of 
Rothschild and his brothers. They deserve 
the highest praise for the efforts they made in 
the public service, and the profit they made 
thereby was made honestly and openly." 

It is beyond question that Nathan Rothschild 
rendered incalculable service to England and 
Prussia during the " hundred days." But these 
"hundred days," in particular, the day of the 
downfall of Napoleon at Waterloo, brought the 
sons of the Frankfort ghetto a colossal profit, 
whereas a few weeks earlier they were faced 
with the prospect of enormous losses. Bona- 
parte's unexpected return from Elba had 
entirely upset Nathan Rothschild's financial 
plans, and at one moment it seemed as if his 
house, which many even then regarded as 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

indestructible, would hardly be able to survive 
this sudden turn in the politics of Europe. His 
whole fortune was at stake. He is said to have 
hastened anxiously to the Continent, to join 
the English army and follow in its footsteps. 
When at last it prepared for a decisive battle 
at the southern boundary of the forest of 
Soigne, Nathan Rothschild, who had hitherto 
shrunk from the sight of blood, could no longer 
control his impatience. He would not remain 
in the rear of the troops, but hurried feverishly 
to the field and followed with his own eyes 
from some higher ground, with anxious heart 
and beating temples, his nerves strained almost 
to the pitch of insanity, the great struggle for 
the mastery of Europe. 

In this terrible battle the fate of Napoleon's 
hundred-days' empire was sealed for ever. 
And before the defeated Emperor ordered the 
last desperate attack, in order, at whatever 
loss, to break the enemy's line and force it to 
retreat by his guards, Nathan Rothschild turned 
his back on the field of battle; he had seen 
enough to convince him that Napoleon had 

The English Rothschilds 

fallen. The sight of the dead and the wounded 
horrified him no longer. Before his eyes was 
the battlefield of the Exchange, and he 
hastened into action. 

His heart overflowing with joy, he galloped 
wildly to Brussels, where, without losing an 
instant, he hired a carriage at an exorbitant 
charge and raced to Ostend as fast as the 
horses could go, in order to sail at once for 
England. He reached Ostend safely, but it 
then seemed as if all his exertions were thrown 
away; a fearful storm raged over the sea, and 
there was not a sailor to be found who would 
risk his life in such weather. 

Rothschild, who lived in perpetual fear of 
attempts on his life, did not shrink before this 
danger. He was certainly no hero, but at the 
present moment he feared nothing. He offered 
500, 800, and at last 1000 francs to any man 
who would take him through the storm to 
England. No one would do it. He was about 
to abandon the enterprise when a courageous 
sailor came forward and said that he would 
take the London Croesus across if he paid 2000 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

francs in cash to his wife beforehand. If they 
both went down, the widow at least would have 

Nathan gladly paid the required sum, and, 
when he at length set foot on English soil, 
made a further generous payment to the brave 
skipper. He was half dead when he reached 
the English coast, but he could not rest a 
moment, and hurried on from Dover to London 
by express post. The next morning he was 
in his usual place at the Exchange, leaning 
against a column. His face was extraordinarily 
pale; he was completely exhausted, and stood 
with weary eyes and failing knees. He looked 
like a man broken in body and soul, as if he 
had aged ten years in a single night. 

The hall of the Exchange was seething with 
excitement, like a hive of bees. The stock- 
brokers, usually so cold-blooded, walked about 
restlessly, speaking little to each other, every 
man shuddering in body and soul as if in 
presence of some dread unknown. Dismal 
news passed from mouth to mouth. In a low 

tone they discussed the defeat of Bliicher, and 

The English Rothschilds 

it was whispered that Napoleon's heavy guard 
had beaten Wellington's army. Rumours that 
they had no means of checking sufficed at such 
a time to make them lose their heads altogether, 
and the state of things was made worse by the 
lamentable spectacle that Nathan Rothschild 
presented. He leaned against his column like 
a man who was condemned to death and 
seemed hardly able to stand on his feet : the 
placid, cold-blooded Caesar, who had never 
before lost his balance in the most furious 
storms of the financial world. 

What they had regarded as idle rumour 
seemed now to take the shape of undeniable 
truth, for the countenance of Nathan Roths- 
child told more than the vague whispers of 
the crowd. A fear, amounting to panic, broke 
on the entire Exchange like a flash of light- 
ning : the passionate and irreconcilable enemy 
of England was once more free, and no one 
could now restrain him if he chose to fall on 
Europe again as the scourge of God. 

The fear fell on the city like a devastating 
cyclone. The news increased in volume and 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

terror, and filled men with alarm. A wild panic 
ensued. The rate of exchange fell from minute 
to minute until it reached its lowest point, and, 
when it was seen that both Rothschild and his 
agents offered securities for sale in large 
quantities, even flung them on the market, 
nothing could arrest the disaster. It was as if 
a mania had seized the crowd ; in a few minutes 
the strongest banks began to waver, and the 
value of the most solid securities sank alarm- 
ingly, as if they were the images of false gods 
which the disillusioned faithful, thirsting for 
vengeance, cast from their pedestals and trod 
under foot. 

Meantime the deathly-pale man at the 
column laughed in his sleeve. While sym- 
pathetic souls expressed their concern for 
Nathan Rothschild, whose great firm, it was 
thought, must now sink into the dust, destroyed 
by its colossal losses, he was quietly buying up 
all the securities offered by means of secret 
agents whom no one knew. 

The next day came the news that Bliicher 

had won at Ligny and Wellington at Waterloo. 

The English Rothschilds 

Rothschild himself told it, with radiant coun- 
tenance, at the opening of the Exchange, the 
rate advanced rapidly and reached an unpre- 
cedented height. In a single day he had 
gained nearly a million sterling. It was these 
events which gave rise to the saying : " The 
allies won the battle of Waterloo, but it was 
really Rothschild who won." The great storm 
in the financial world had subsided, and Roths- 
child emerged from the catastrophe more power- 
ful than ever. If the whole story is true it is 
doubtful if so romantic and stirring an adven- 
ture could be repeated in the modern financial 
world, with all its means of communication; in 
any case, it would need a Nathan Rothschild. 

It was impossible to restore financial rela- 
tions to a healthy condition at once after the 
battle of Waterloo. National economies could 
not recover quickly from the fearful strain that 
the war had put on them, and they were again 
obliged to borrow; that is to say, to enter a 
field in which Nathan Rothschild's genius dis- 
played its fullest power, and in which he 
almost played the part of providence. This 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

struggle for millions, demanding, as it did, a 
great fighting power, an incredible coolness, 
and a firm self-control, offered a wonderful 
spectacle to the observer. Here there were 
no regiments of dragoons galloping into action, 
no firing of guns, no body-guard to fling on 
the foe; there were merely two antagonists 
confronting each other the State on the one 
side, and a single individual, Nathan Roths- 
child, on the other. They had been in 
friendly relations, yet they entered into a 
struggle, because victory meant a considerable 
material gain to the winner. 

In Prussia the measures adopted by the 
Chancellor Hardenberg and the Minister of 
Finance Biilow required a great deal of money, 
and, as this was not to be had in the country, 
they had to seek it abroad. Barandon, the 
commercial representative at London, recom- 
mended the Prussian Government in Novem- 
ber 1817 to place the loan at London. In his 
opinion Nathan Rothschild was the best man 
for the purpose, as he could command success 
everywhere owing to his universal credit. 

The English Rothschilds 

Barandon at once received orders to negotiate 
with him for a loan of 1,250,000, but Roths- 
child preferred a State loan of at least 
2,500,000. In this he gave the first indica- 
tion that he liked big operations; he had 
confidence in his own strength and resources. 

They settled the general conditions, accord- 
ing to which they adopted the rate of the five 
per cent. French stock namely, 70 per cent. 
But as the plans of France, Austria, and 
Russia in regard to new State loans were after- 
wards published and spoiled the market, 
Barandon could only take into consideration, 
in his draft of January 13, 1818, an issue at the 
rate of 60 per cent., as he informed Harden- 
berg. The envoy Humboldt said the same, 
though he found the terms exorbitant and 
thought that the matter should not be decided 
until some attempt was made to obtain better 
terms. Humboldt wrote as follows 

"If the loan is to be placed here I think that 
it can only be done through Rothschild, other- 
wise some other equally large house would 
have to be enlisted in our interest, which would 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

be difficult. Rothschild is now certainly the 
most enterprising financier. He is very well 
acquainted, through his brothers, with the posi- 
tion of the Prussian State, and he is on their 
account anxious to serve our court; it would not 
be easy to induce another house here to be 
equally obliging. The banker Rothschild is 
also a reliable man; the present Government 
does a good deal of business with him, and 
he is, as far as I know him, very honest and 

The envoy says in the same letter that Roths- 
child wishes to undertake the entire loan him- 
self, and desires in future that the Prussian 
agent shall not intervene in the matter, as he has 
certain objections to him. 

The new terms caused quite a storm of ex- 
citement at Berlin. However, Hardenberg and 
Rother, the director of the Treasury (which 
was distinct from the Ministry of Finance), 
determined, in opposition to the prevailing view, 
to place the loan abroad, and Rother went 
to Amsterdam for the purpose. There the 
Government refused to consent, as it feared 

The English Rothschilds 

that there would be some difficulty if it needed 
a loan itself. Prussia was, therefore, thrown 
back upon the Rothschilds, and Rother went 
to Coblentz, where Solomon Rothschild was 
at the time. Here again he failed, and the 
Berlin bankers probably impelled by the 
Government at last stirred themselves and 
offered their services. They were prepared to 
manage a loan of 1,900,000, and it began to 
look as if they could dispense with the English 
Rothschild. That induced him to offer a rate 
of 65 per cent, and raise the amount of the loan 
to 3,800,000. A sharp struggle followed, and 
public opinion in Prussia was on the side of 
the Berlin bankers. The Government, how- 
ever, decided to accept the English offer, as it 
recognised the doubtful value of the Berlin 
scheme, and so Rother proceeded to London 
in March 1818 with instructions from Harden- 
berg to conclude the loan if he could get a 
nominal rate of 70 per cent. 

Nathan Rothschild and Rother and Baran- 

don discussed the subject for five whole days, 

from ten in the morning until six in the even- 

G 97 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

ing, and then again uninterruptedly from ten 
at night until two in the morning. How exact- 
ing the work was may be gathered from the fact 
that Rother had not time to draw up official 
reports and had to be content with notes in 
pencil. Although he was pressed from Berlin 
to conclude as speedily as possible, he had 
opened the negotiations with a declaration that 
he could not accept the terms offered and must 
ask for better. Rothschild said that in many 
respects he was anxious to meet them, and that 
he would agree to an average rate of 65 per 
cent.; farther than that he would not go, as 
even the French funds stood no higher. As 
the parties could not come to an agreement, 
Rothschild asked Rother to make a counter- 
offer in writing, and Rother did so the next 
morning. In his draft he assumed a rate of 
issue varying between 75, 78, and 80 per cent. 
Rothschild pointed out that this was impos- 
sible, and said that he must retire from the 
affair if Rother persisted in his claims. 

Rother had foreseen this and had put the rate 
so high in order to draw a good offer from 

The English Rothschilds 

Rothschild; otherwise he was disposed to let 
the matter drop. Now new plans and pro- 
posals were discussed until at last Nathan 
Rothschild agreed to un'dertake the loan at 
70 per cent., if he were guaranteed a commis- 
sion of four per cent. To this Rother would 
not consent, and after a great deal of fatiguing 
discussion they came to terms : with a commis- 
sion of four per cent., 2,500,000 should be 
issued at 70 per cent., 1,250,000 at 72^, and 
1,250,000 at 75. When he returned home, 
however, and tested the figures Rother found 
that the State would not quite receive 70 per 
cent., and so the next morning he wrote as 
follows to Solomon Rothschild, who was in 
London helping his brother with the negotia- 

' You know me, and know that I keep my 
word in all things. You will therefore believe 
me when I say that, whether we do business or 
not, I am pleased to be in London and to have 
made the acquaintance of your brother, for 
whose mind and character I have the greatest 

G2 99 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

He adds that it is impossible for him to 
accept the business on the basis of the sug- 
gested rate, and goes on to say of his pleni- 
potentiary powers 

" I will show you these when we meet, not 
as Herr von Rothschild but as my friend ; until 
then the Rothschilds can do nothing in the 

To this clever letter Solomon Rothschild 
sent the following reply 

' Your Excellency's very pleasant letter has 
been delivered to me, and I have put its con- 
tents before my brother. We agree to do nothing 
until we have the pleasure of seeing you. No 
action shall be taken hastily, as here there is 
nothing but friendship and candour, and you 
must and shall have proof that we speak, not 
merely with the lips, but from the heart, when 
we say that we are your sincere and devoted 
friends. In haste, 


Immediately afterwards Rother informed his 

The English Rothschilds 

Government from London that the negotia- 
tions had taken a favourable turn 

" The present Rothschild is a very estimable 
man and has an enormous influence on the 
whole business world here in London. It is 
often said, and is almost true, that he dictates 
the rate on the Exchange. His position as a 
banker is very strong. . . ." 

On March 31, about three o'clock in the 
morning, just as the day was dawning, the 
business was concluded. Nathan Rothschild 
agreed to an issue at 70, 72^ and 75 per cent., 
and abandoned his claim of commission, so 
that the average rate was 72 per cent. That 
very day he shipped a million silver thaler 
[125,000] to Rother at Hamburg, and pro- 
mised to send an equal sum at once to Ham- 
burg in bills. It was a splendid proof of his 
confidence in the Prussian statesman and his 
extraordinary dispatch in business. It also 
throws a light on the reserve of money which 
the Rothschilds always had, seeing that they 
were in a position to put a million thaler on 
board the moment they came to an agreement. 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

The money had scarcely reached a Prussian 
port when the indefatigable Rothschild 
plunged into new business. The dislike of the 
English for foreign loans put no slight diffi- 
culties in the way of his far-reaching activity. 
He had gradually to accustom them to the idea 
and make them see the immense importance of 
this class of business, until at last London, 
which had hitherto been merely the largest 
money-centre in Europe, became the emporium 
of the markets of the world and began to play 
the part that Amsterdam had rilled in the 
eighteenth century. Strictly speaking, Nathan 
Rothschild was the first banker to negotiate 
loans in the modern form. 

In all these operations he was singularly 
fortunate. No State with which he did busi- 
ness ever failed; in cases where one of them 
was behindhand in covering the coupons he 
always had money enough at his disposal to let 
the creditors have their interest out of his own 
coffers. As this enabled States to pay punc- 
tually always, men began to credit Nathan 
RothschUd with a wonderful foresight and to 


The English Rothschilds 

entertain that unreserved confidence which 
gave a stamp of infallibility to all his under- 

He extended his transactions to all branches 
of stockbroking, buying or selling according 
to circumstances. Where he found State 
securities which no one had hitherto dreamed 
of buying he bought them, as he knew from 
experience that he could dispose of them at 
a profit when once they had passed into his 
hands. He not only advanced mortey to 
States, but induced them to exchange one sort 
of stock for another, the percentage of which 
was less burdensome to them. Here again he 
was the first to frame large plans of reduction. 

He did not, of course, succeed equally in all 
his loans to States; sometimes he sustained 
losses which would have ruined other banking 
firms. These unpleasant experiences, how- 
ever, only made him more prudent, and he 
often rejected an offer without a word of ex- 
planation when he thought it was not sound 
enough. He refused, for instance, every in- 
vitation from Spain or from the American 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

republics which had formerly been un'der 
Spanish rule. 

He was careful to avoid all unsound busi- 
ness, and especially refrained from taking 
shares in any of the limited companies of a 
questionable character which were then formed 
in large numbers. That does not mean to say, 
however, that he had no share in the float- 
ing of companies. It stands to his credit, 
for instance, to have brought into existence 
the "Alliance Marine Assurance Company." 
Marine insurance was at that time entirely in 
the hands of private individuals; they had, it 
is true, combined in a large association under 
the name of " Lloyd," but did not form a 
limited-liability company, as this was not per- 
mitted by the laws at that time. Nathan Roths- 
child used the whole of his influence to get 
the restriction removed; in order, it was said, 
to put a relative of his named Gompertz at the 
head of the concern. There may have been 
some truth is this, although there were many 
other ways in which he could have found a 
good position for his relative. The chief point 

The English Rothschilds 

in his mind was that Gompertz was an excellent 
mathematician, and he regarded this as a 
guarantee of the prosperity of the company. 
He went to work very energetically to realise 
his plan. He turned to the Government, which 
was disposed to alter the law relating to limited 
companies, and a good deal of intrigue took 
place at the House of Commons, where 
Lloyd's attempted to oppose Rothschild, but 
they were defeated by his intimate friend 
Buxton. Even in the Upper House he found 
a warm supporter of his plan in Lord Liver- 
pool, the Premier, and in the end he won. 

This victory confirmed the belief in his irre- 
sistible power in England. In point of fact, 
his influence was not confined to the European 
market, but extended to America, where, on 
one occasion, he saved the Brazilian Empire. 
It had in 1824 contracted a loan of 3,200,000 
sterling with the London firm, Wilson & Co., 
but the terms were so difficult that the Brazilian 
plenipotentiaries would not assume responsi- 
bility for it. On this account the London house 
refused to send any more money after the first 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

million. This put Brazil in a very critical 
situation. Nathan Rothschild then undertook 
to pay the remaining 2,200,00x3, although 
Brazil was in so insecure a position that it was 
soon compelled to discontinue the payment of 
the interest. Nathan Rothschild was, however, 
not the man to desert one to whom he had lent 
a saving hand; he wished to protect it from 
calamities. He therefore, in the year 1829, 
sent a further 800,000 to Brazil, on condition 
that the overdue interest was paid. It was not 
an overwhelming sum, but it sufficed to enable 
the Brazilians to put their financial affairs in 

The quality that exhibits a certain greatness 
in Nathan Rothschild was the unwavering 
fidelity with which he clung to a system, in spite 
of changes in the political situation which 
would have compelled most bankers and 
financiers to withdraw their capital. The most 
astounding developments in the politics of 
Europe never diverted him from his purpose; 
it almost seemed as if catastrophes were his 
proper element. 

The English Rothschilds 

Yet, in spite of the large and cosmopolitan 
business of the Rothschild house, none of the 
brothers neglected smaller transactions. They 
felt that in building a palace limestone was 
needed as well as marble. The sale and pur- 
chase of securities of all sorts on a small scale 
were most conscientiously attended to and the 
business of exchange was most carefully main- 
tained; in fact, the smaller details of banking 
received all the attention that is needed for a 
concern to prosper. The discounting-business 
assumed enormous proportions, and, although 
it did not bring in such large profits as loans, 
it had the advantage of a steady income and 
of not being exposed to the effects of sudden 
events and incalculable chances. Nathan 
Rothschild did not hesitate for a moment to 
accept bills from any part of the world, whether 
they were from Moscow, Rome, Bombay, or 
New York. He had a curious power of telling 
at first sight if a signature was forged, even if 
he had seen the genuine signature only once. 
His memory was so good that, in spite of the 
mountain of offers, plans, and requests that 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

always awaited him on his return from the 
Exchange, he could dictate the prices to his 
secretaries and clerks quite accurately without 
having taken any note of them. 

In describing his character we should notice 
the confidence with which he handled securities 
which other bankers had rejected. Many a 
merchant in such cases was assisted by him, 
and he never suffered any material loss in this 
way; which shows at once the justice of his 
principle and the unwillingness of men to 
abuse his confidence. He had no intention of 
giving alms, but knew that money and credit 
can restore the small trader to his position, and 
he was pleased to give the opportunity to small 
traders. There was a strong dose of humanity 
in his business-ideas. 

In October 1816 the Emperor of Austria, at 
the suggestion of the financial minister at the 
time, Count Stadion, rewarded the merits of 
the Rothschild brothers with a diploma of 
nobility. Curiously enough, Nathan, who had 
been the soul of the negotiations in regard to 
the English subsidies, was not included in this 
1 08 

The English Rothschilds 

honour, but in 1822 he and the other brothers 
received the title of baron. He never made 
public use of this title or wore the decorations 
which he received from nearly every ruler in 
Europe. He remained a simple Rothschild; 
in spite of its modesty, he found the name im- 
posing enough, since it compelled admiration 
throughout the civilised world. His operations 
were known to have always the character of 
immensity, as Carl Gutzkow justly says in a 
fine paragraph 

" Nathan Rothschild fitly represents the 
calmness and power of the city of London. 
He approaches his undertakings with the hand 
of a giant. Everything in him is gigantic. Not 
long ago one of my friends said of him : ' When 
this man goes hunting, the beast must be at 
least an elephant.' ' 

The banking-house of Nathan Rothschild 
had indeed reached a stage of greatness and 
power that had never been attained by any 
other business-house on earth. Even his 
brothers could not compete with him, and the 
Bank of England often relied on his assistance 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

and good-will. This happened particularly 
in the fateful year 1825, at the time of the 
financial crisis, when not only did the most 
solid firms waver and the weaker fell like 
houses of cards, but this splendid institution, 
the pride of the English people, the impreg- 
nable Bastille of the money-trade, was nearly 
compelled to suspend payment. It is impos- 
sible to estimate the extent of the calamity 
which this would have entailed how many 
thousands of lives would have been ruined and 
what the consequences would have been for the 
whole future of the English financial world, if 
Nathan Rothschild had not appeared on the 
scene as an angel of deliverance. There was 
something of the genius, something titanic, 
about him. The rapidity with which he 
summed up a situation and utilised the oppor- 
tunity or came to the assistance of those in 
danger, was one of the leading features of his 
character. According to Sir Thomas Powell 
Buxton not only rapid decision was one of the 
chief elements in Rothschild's business capa- 
city, but there was also something that savoured 

The English Rothschilds 

of superstition, as Buxton proceeds to illus- 

" Another maxim, on which he seemed to 
place great reliance, was never to have any- 
thing to do with an unlucky place or an unlucky 
man. 'I have seen/ said he, ' many very clever 
men who had not shoes to their feeU I never 
act with them. Their advice sounds very well, 
but fate is against them. They cannot get on 
themselves; if they cannot do good to them- 
selves, how can they do good to me ? ' 

The same authority tells us another trait of 
Rothschild's character in these words 

" One of his guests once said to Rothschild : 
' I hope your children are not too fond of 
money and business, to the exclusion of more 
important things. I am sure you would not 
wish that.' Rothschild answered : * I am sure 
I should wish that. I wish them to give mind, 
and soul, and heart, and body, and everything 
to business; that is the way to be happy. It 
requires a great deal of boldness, and a great 
deal of caution, to make a great fortune; and, 
when you have got it, it requires ten times as 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

much wit to keep it. If I were to listen to all 
the projects proposed to me, I should ruin 
myself very soon. Stick to one business, 
young man,' said he to Edward ; ' stick to your 
brewery, and you may be the great brewer of 
London. Be a brewer, and a banker, and a 
merchant, and a manufacturer, and you will 
soon be in the Gazette? ' 

This conversation shows the cast of mind of 
Nathan Rothschild, of which a contemporary 

" Here is the key to the character of Nathan 
Rothschild. His ambition was directed to the 
carrying out of well-conceived financial opera- 
tions, to money-making, if you want to express 
it in those terms; but the emphasis must be on 
the word ' making.' Money and the things that 
money buys had little value in themselves for 
him. He had little feeling for what every 
Englishman looks forward to securing when 
he has money enough for ' comfort,' in the 
widest sense of the word. His ambition was 
to attain his object in business more speedily 
and effectively than others, to strive for it with 


The English Rothschilds 

all his might. When he had attained his object, 
the thing lost its attractions for him, and his 
restless mind turned to others." 

As a matter of fact, the pursuit of any aim, 
whether it be in art, politics, or business, de- 
mands above all things a concentration of one's 
forces on a single point; concentration is the 
characteristic of genius. The Rothschilds con- 
centrated all their powers on money-making, 
and this was always the mainspring of action 
in the whole dynasty. Bismarck, who knew 
the character of the Rothschilds, noticed this, 
and said in 1879 

" I have known a good many members of 
this house. What strikes one in all of them 
is the hunt for money. That, however, is due 
to the fact that each of them is always anxious 
to leave to each of his children as much as he 
himself inherited, and that is nonsense." 

The unceasing struggle for money left 
Nathan Rothschild no time to live his own 
life. His time, thoughts, and feelings were 
devoted exclusively to his profession. To a 
friend who asked him in joke how much time 

H 113 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

he had for music, he replied, jingling the 
money in his pocket : " That is the musical 
instrument on which I play best." His motto 
was, " Business." He took the greatest pre- 
cautions to guard the secrecy with which he 
surrounded his operations. He went to work 
with such stealthiness that his sales and pur- 
chases were often misunderstood by his col- 
leagues, and this sometimes exposed them to 
no inconsiderable risk. To attempt to follow 
his example was very bold, as his transactions 
were carried out with so much ability and craft 
that no one attempted a second time to imitate 

At that time he lived some distance from the 
city, at Stamford Hill, where he had his offices. 
One day, late in the evening, a wealthy and 
well-known stockbroker named Lucas noticed 
that his carriage was waiting for him in front 
of the house. Lucas, who would very much 
like to find out Rothschild's plans, suspected 
something; he said to himself that there must 
be some serious reason for driving out at that 

late hour. He ordered his own carriage at 

The English Rothschilds 

once, and watched if Rothschild really left the 
house. After a time he saw Rothschild, ac- 
companied by two friends, and heard him call 
to the coachman before he joined them in the 

" Drive to the city ! " 

Lucas had now no doubt that there was 
question of some business of importance. He 
jumped into his carriage and followed Roths- 
child, who made at a gallop for New Court, his 
town residence. A few moments later Lucas, 
apparently drunk, staggered through the door- 
way, and, in spite of the protests of the servants, 
entered Rothschild's study, where he fell to the 
ground like a heavy sack. Rothschild and his 
friends, not a little disturbed by this unexpected 
visit, sprang upon the apparently unconscious 
man, lifted him on to the couch, sprinkled him 
with cold water and perfume, and rubbed his 
limbs to bring the blood back to them. It was 
all in vain ; and, as the conversation which had 
been interrupted by the appearance of Lucas 
was extremely important, and the quiet and 

regular breathing of the man seemed to show 
H2 115 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

that he had fallen into a healthy sleep, they 
continued the discussion. It was a matter of 
great urgency, as important news had come 
from Spain and provided an opening for some 
good business, if they could buy up certain 
stock at once without attracting attention. 
They drew up a plan of campaign and went 
their various ways, intending to enter upon the 
business on the following morning. They did 
not, of course, forget the sick man, and Roths- 
child told the servants to take him home as soon 
as he recovered. 

There was no need to do this. As soon as 
Rothschild had gone, Lucas left the house, in 
spite of the clamour of the servants, though 
he still seemed to be very weak, and his gait 
was uncertain and staggering. He had, of 
course, no idea of returning home; he hurried 
to his office, and made arrangements to snatch 
up the stock in question before Rothschild 
could get them. He completely succeeded, 
and made an enormous profit. It was the last 
time that Rothschild sprinkled Lucas's fore- 
head with perfume. 

The English Rothschilds 

But how many sleepless nights the prince of 
London finance must have sacrificed to Mam- 
mon ! In spite of all the earthly goods at his 
command, he was by no means a happy man. 
Sir Thomas Buxton, who often visited him in 
his splendidly furnished house, once said to 
him, " You must be a very happy man ; how 
could any one be otherwise than happy in such 
a house as this ? " 

" I happy ! " Rothschild exclaimed, his voice 
poignant with sadness. " How could I be 
when, worn out with the day's work, I go to 
dinner and find letters saying, ' If you do not 
send me 500, I will blow your brains out.' I 
get letters like that every hour." 

Threatening letters reached him from every 
part of the world and embittered his life ; they 
made him nervous, and threw him into a kind 
of terror that bordered on insanity. In his later 
years he never went to bed without putting a 
loaded pistol under his pillow. He lived in 
hourly dread of attempts on his life, and saw a 
would-be assassin in every stranger. It often 
put him in a most unpleasant situation. 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

One peculiar experience was with two men 
who came to visit him. Rothschild greeted 
them with a slight inclination of the head, which 
the visitors met with a profound bow, without 
any of them saying a single word. Instead of 
speaking they felt nervously in their pockets, 
as if to extract something. Rothschild became 
as pale as death. On that very morning he had 
received a number of threatening letters, and he 
thought that his visitors were assassins. His 
face was tense, and he swiftly seized a large 
book and flung it at the men. With desperate 
energy he laid hold of everything within reach 
and threw it at them, shouting for help at the 
top of his voice. His servants rushed in, and 
it was found that the visitors were small bankers 
who had been struck dumb in presence of the 
great prince of finance. The feeling that they 
were actually face to face with Nathan Roths- 
child, on whom their fate depended, had so 
overcome them that they were not only unable 
to speak, but could not find the letter of 
introduction to him which they had in their 

The English Rothschilds 

Even in the exercise of philanthropy Nathan 
Rothschild betrayed some nervousness ; he was 
troubled by the thought that people would make 
a bad use of his gifts. It was so, as a matter 
of fact. It was in vain that he gave freely and 
generously. It was all too little for the world, 
which spoke of him as miserly, and this unjust 
verdict disturbed the harmony of his nature. 
There were people who laughed at him, and 
said that he hated beneficence so much that 
he preferred sleepless nights from his utter 
detestation of " beneficent " sleep. 

A number of these mocking aphorisms on 
Rothschild survive, and it is quite possible that 
his works of charity did not always spring from 
an intimate feeling of sympathy with the suffer- 
ing, as he once said, somewhat cynically, to his 
friend Buxton 

" Sometimes, to amuse myself, I give a beggar 
a guinea. He thinks I have made a mistake, 
and, for fear I should find it out, off he runs as 
hard as he can. I advise you to give a beggar 
a guinea sometimes; it is very amusing." 

It is difficult to say whether there was not 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

more pose than virtue in this attitude. It is a 
fact, at all events, that he was always in a hurry 
to get such matters over. Hence, when a 
deputation of philanthropic people visited him, 
and started to make a lengthy and solemn 
appeal to his heart, he promptly interrupted the 
speaker, without any intention of hurting his 
feelings, and cried to his secretary, " Make out 
a cheque." 

This impatience was quite intelligible, and 
people did not take it amiss. There were 
thousands of plans in his mind, and he ought 
not to lose sight of them. How was it possible 
for him to entertain the innumerable fantastic 
schemes to which many of his co-religionists 
thought that he ought to devote his fortune? 
It was no light matter in the circumstances to 
v listen patiently, with the amiable features of a 
philanthropist, to all their tirades, as if the 
great financier had nothing else to do but meet 
the requirements of every one who approached 
him. It is quite true that Nathan was not of 
so generous a nature as his father had been; 

and in consequence of this he did not take the 

The English Rothschilds 

same pleasure in acts of chanty as his father 
had done. 

Sometimes Nathan Rothschild was in such a 
hurry that he failed to recognise the character 
of his visitor. It happened, for instance, one 
day that he handed half-a-crown to a poor Jew 
who stood before his desk in silence. 

" What ! " said the Jew. " Don't you recog- 
nise me? I am Mayer Jeremias." 

" I don't remember you," Nathan murmured 

The aged Jew became very grave at this, and 
muttered to himself, " He doesn't know me, 
he doesn't know me, poor man. In three 
days he will be dead." 

He went away, and the financier, greatly 
alarmed at the curse, hastily called his secretary, 
saying to himself, " I wa to die in three days, 
did he say?" 

" Did you see that man ? " he asked the clerk 
when he came. 

" Yes." 

" Call him back at once ! Bring him here 
immediately ! " 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

In ten minutes the elderly Jew was again in 
Rothschild's room. 

" You said," Rothschild exclaimed to him, 
" that I should die within three days. Why did 
you say that ? I did not send you away empty- 

" No," answered the aged Jew quietly; "you 
gave me half-a-crown." 


" But you did not recognise me, and so I 
cannot talk to you. Yet we were once on a 
footing of equality. I was a friend of yours 
at Manchester. You went to London; I went 
to ruin; and you do not know me, now that I 
am a poor man. You have forgotten the poor 
man who was once your friend. . . ." 

" And was it simply for that you said I should 
die within three days?" 

' Yes and no. When I was reduced to beg- 
gary, I went to America. There I became a 
muleteer, domestic servant, labourer, and at 
one time nurse in a hospital." 

" Well ? " Rothschild interrupted impatiently. 

"And in that hospital I noticed something. 

The English Rothschilds 

When a patient failed to recognise his friends 
and relatives, the doctor used to say : ' That 
man will be dead within three days.' Well, 
you did not recognise me, your old friend, and 
so I repeated those words. I did not mean 
them for a curse." 

Nathan Rothschild laughed when he heard 
the explanation. He again became the friend 
of Mayer Jeremias ; he placed him in his office, 
and Jeremias became one of his best agents. 

In the course of business Nathan had, as a 
rule, a wonderful control of his nerves ; in fact, 
he was complete master of his organism, though 
his nerves were profoundly affected by the 
enormous amount of work hejmposed on them. 
Once, when he was ill in bed, and an operation 
had to be performed by the famous surgeon 
Listen, he bore it without a murmur. After 
the operation Rothschild said to Listen 

" Now, I suppose, you expect me to pay you 
for the pain you have given me? There you 
are mistaken. I will pay you nothing but 
ask you to accept this little memento." 

With these words he handed the surgeon a 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

night-cap. Listen knew the peculiarities of his 
patient, quietly accepted the cap, and put it in 
his pocket. As he was engaged the whole day 
going from one patient to another, he forgot 
the singular gift of the Croesus of London. It 
was not until he returned home in the evening 
that he remembered it, and he then took out the 
cap in order to put it on his desk as a reminder 
of the eccentric millionaire. As he handled it, 
however, he heard a rustling sound, and, when 
he examined it, he found in it a bank-note for 
1000. Rothschild used to love jokes of this 
kind, which turned to the profit of his victim. 

He rarely made witty remarks. His humour 
was rather of a sarcastic or ironical nature, and 
was only vented, as a rule, when his self-esteem 
was hurt. He never used the title of baron, 
which he had received from the Austrian 
Emperor, because he considered the name 
Rothschild superior to all distinctions. But 
when others boasted of their rank or spoke of 
their ancient lineage, his pride stirred and he 
shot his barbs pitilessly at his opponent. The 

Duke of Montmorency, who descended from 

The English Rothschilds 

a very ancient stock of nobles, once said to him 
that his family had borne the title of "first 
baron of France " since the fourteenth century, 
and were therefore the first Christian barons. 
Rothschild's eye kindled, and he replied 

"We are quits then. You are the first 
Christian baron in France, and I am the first 
Jewish baron in England." 

His pride in his success was sometimes ex- 
pressed in a way that was painful to others. 
The Bank of England, which he had saved 
from bankruptcy in the financial crisis of 1825, 
once hurt his feelings very severely. He is said 
to have sent to it for payment a bill for a large 
amount which he had received from his brother 
Anselm. But the Bank of England refused to 
pay on the ground that it only cashed its own 
notes, not those of private individuals. 

" So private individuals ! "exclaimed Roths- 
child angrily. " I will let them see what kind 
of private individuals the Rothschilds are." 

He took a heavy revenge, if we may believe 
a story which has been frequently told. The 
best weapon in the hand of a Rothschild is 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

money, and he ordered his agents to secure as 
many Bank of England notes as they possibly 
could. For three weeks they continued to 
collect them, then, when the Bank opened 
one morning, Nathan Rothschild stood at the 
counter. He took a five-pound note from 
his swollen purse, and asked the chief cashier, 
with freezing politeness, to give him gold for 
it. It was given with equal politeness, the 
cashier restraining his astonishment that the 
great financier should waste his time in such 
trifles. Nathan Rothschild carefully examined 
each sovereign and put it in a leather sack. 
Then he calmly produced a second five-pound 
note, and repeated his action a second, third, 
fourth, fifth, and tenth time, in every detail. 
He continued to change notes until the hour of 
closing, and in a single day had lessened the 
gold-reserve of the Bank by 210,000. While 
Nathan himself "operated" at the chief coun- 
ter, nine of his clerks were busy changing paper 
into gold at the other counters. 

Everybody now understood the manoeuvre, 
and laughed at the original means that Roths- 

The English Rothschilds 

child had adopted to punish the Bank; they 
saw that he was in a position to restrict the 
circulation of gold, and the great institution was 
quite powerless to resist him. The whole city 
except the directors of the Bank was 
amused. If the directors were at first dis- 
posed to laugh, they soon changed their mind, 
for Nathan Rothschild was at his post again the 
next morning, with his band of clerks, ready 
to continue changing notes. The manager 
hurriedly went to him and asked why he was 
annoying the Bank in this way. He smiled 
grimly, and said 

' You said that you were not prepared to 
change my bills. It seems that you have no 
confidence in them. Well, if you entertain a 
doubt about me, I am free to entertain one 
about you. I am determined to demand gold 
for every one of your notes. I began yesterday, 
and I give you notice that I shall keep your 
cashier busy changing notes for at least two 

Two months! If Rothschild persisted in 
his work for that length of time, he would take 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

at least eleven million pounds out of the Bank's 
gold-reserve. That would not do at all. A 
meeting of the directors was called at once, 
and it was decided to send an apology to 
Nathan Rothschild, together with an assurance 
that the Bank of England would always be 
pleased to cash his bills, whatever kind they 

These petty, but not insignificant, episodes 
show us the character of the London financier. 
He was often misjudged by his contemporaries, 
as we see in the following candid description, 
which shows the impression that he gave on the 

' There is a rigidity and tension in his 
features that would make you fancy, if you did 
not see that it was not so, that some one was 
pinching him behind, and that he was either 
afraid or ashamed to say so. Eyes are usually 
denominated the windows of the soul ; but here 
you would conclude that the windows are false 
ones, or that there was no soul to look out of 
them. There comes not one pencil of light 
from the interior, neither is there one scintilla- 

The English Rothschilds 

tion of that which comes from without reflected 
in any direction. The whole puts you in mind 
of a skin to let, and you wonder why it stands 
upright without at least something in it. By- 
and-by another figure comes up to it. It then 
steps two paces aside, and the most inquisitive 
glance that you ever saw, and a glance more in- 
quisitive than you would ever have thought of, 
is drawn out of the erstwhile fixed and leaden 
eye, as if one were drawing a sword from its 
scabbard. The visiting figure, which has the 
appearance of coming by accident, and not by 
design, stops but a second or two, in the course 
of which looks are exchanged which, though 
you cannot translate, you feel must be of most 
important meaning. After these the eyes are 
sheathed up again, and the figure resumes its 
stony posture. During the morning numbers 
of visitors come, all of whom meet with a similar 
reception and vanish in a similar manner; and, 
last of all, the figure itself vanishes, leaving you 
utterly at a loss as to what can be its nature and 

And one day the mysterious figure dis- 
i 129 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

appeared for ever from the Exchange. Nathan 
died in his fifty-ninth year, leaving behind four 
sons and three daughters. 

He had married the eldest daughter to 
Anselm, the son of his eldest brother Solomon, 
of Vienna, in order to knit more closely the 
bonds of the family as old Maier Amschel had 
bade them. He would also have been pleased 
to see his eldest son Lionel marry within the 
family, but he did not live to see it. He loved 
London, but his heart was also drawn to his 
native city, Frankfort, which he visited as often 
as he could. In the spring of 1836 he once 
more went there, perhaps to refresh the 
memories of his youth, perhaps to die there. 
There were also family reasons for the journey; 
Lionel was to marry Charlotte, the daughter 
of Karl Rothschild of Naples, at Frankfort. 
When Nathan reached Frankfort, however, his 
illness increased, and he was destined never 
again to see London, the theatre of his struggles 
and victories. Travers, the famous English 
physician, was hastily summoned to his bedside, 
but it was too late to save him. He died on 

The English Rothschilds 

July 28, at Frankfort, the first really great 
Croesus of modern times. His pigeon-post 
took the news of his death to England in the 
words : " II est mort." 

He was buried at London, in accordance with 
his last instructions. His funeral was attended 
by the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, many of the 
English nobility, and the Russian, Prussian, 
Austrian, Portuguese and Neapolitan ambas- 
sadors. He was laid to rest in the cemetery 
at Duke's Place, belonging to the German 

Thus the London house of the Rothschilds 
lost its founder, but the mighty organism could 
not interrupt the course of its life; it needed 
only a new controller. Nathan left four sons. 
The youngest, Maier, was only eighteen years 
old; the third, Nathaniel, had already attained 
his majority; Antony was twenty-six, and the 
eldest, Lionel, in his twenty-eighth year. As 
the latter had considerable business ability, and 
had taken part in the management of the firm 
during the lifetime of his father, and was 
acquainted with the whole network of their 
12 131 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

connections, he took over the reins. Being a 
man of large views, he initiated very extensive 
operations, and introduced new ideas into the 
politics of business. As he had a great talent 
for organisation and an immense faculty for 
work, he never needed the assistance of his 
brothers. He worked and struggled to get 
further millions, while his brothers could 
peacefully follow their inclinations and dis- 

Antony and Maierwere fond of sport. They 
were both members of the London Jockey Club 
and were much esteemed in that circle. The 
Rothschild colours won many a victory on the 
turf through their efforts; once they won two 
prizes in one race. As far as the business was 
concerned, they remained in the background, 
as the energetic Lionel could not endure a com- 
panion in his labours. He lived beyond the 
biblical span of life, and, even after the death 
of his brothers, continued to work with uninter- 
rupted vigour. 

The third-youngest brother, Nathaniel, had 
certain physical defects which prevented him 

The English Rothschilds 

from taking any part in the business. He was 
paralytic, and lost his sight in his later years. 
He migrated to Paris, where, in spite of his 
malady, he followed the course of events with 
the keenest interest. Ill and unfortunate as he 
was, condemned for life to a chair, he paid the 
closest attention, not only to political events, 
but to science, art, and the social life of Paris. 
He was a collector of pictures; his blindness 
prevented him from appreciating them, but he 
bought them in order to give support to the 
artists and stimulate them to fresh efforts. He 
had the subject, the design, and the colouring 
of each picture explained to him, and when any 
one expressed his surprise that he was inter- 
ested in things which he could not see, he 
answered in his gentle way 

"Oh, eyes are not at all so necessary for 
seeing. Words can paint just as well as the 
brush, and a man often sees better with the eye 
of the spirit than with the bodily eye." 

In spite of his misfortunes and his incurable 
illness a French poet once described him as 
"Job on a money-bag " he led a very peaceful 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

life, and was never heard to make a complaint. 
He bore his hard fate quietly, and found some 
alleviation of his sufferings in helping others. 

While the blind brother thus enjoyed the 
spiritual beauties of pictures, and Maier and 
Antony followed their enthusiasm for horses, 
Lionel worked and increased the Rothschild 
millions. Nathan had educated his sons very 
carefully, and Lionel had studied at Gottingen 
University, and only entered the business when 
his studies were completed. He took up the 
work of his father with all the fresh energy of 
youth, and always retained a deep respect for 
the older man. He in turn was convinced of 
the importance and advantage of State-loans, 
and under his direction the London house 
conducted no less than eighteen operations 
of this character; in these transactions nearly 
200,000,000 passed through his hands to 
various governments in Europe and America. 
To this enormous sum must be added 4,000,000 
which Lionel advanced to the British Govern- 
ment in the year 1875, when it took over the 
Suez Canal shares from the Khedive Ismail. 

The English Rothschilds 

In spite of his exacting business activity, 
Lionel Rothschild devoted a great deal more 
time than his father had done to social life, in 
which he might justly have claimed a high 
position. In the year 1847 ne was elected to 
represent the City in Parliament. It was some 
time, however, before he could carry out the 
mandate entrusted to him, as the political con- 
dition in England and his creed prevented him. 
At that time members of Parliament had to 
take an oath which included a profession of 
belief in "the true Christian faith." Lionel 
Rothschild, being an orthodox Jew, refused to 
swear on the Gospels, and asked them to sub- 
stitute the Old Testament. As he was not 
allowed to do this, he relinquished the seat ; he 
was, however, elected again two years later and 
had to confront the same obstacle, but at last, 
in the year 1858, the form of the oath was 
changed. He was elected a fourth time by the 
City, and was now able to enter Parliament. 
Besides this dignity he received the title of 
Consul-General of the Austro-Hungarian 
monarchy, which his father had had. His 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

family occupied an important position in the 
social life of London and was on very 
good terms with the English nobility. The 
Prince of Wales, afterwards Edward VII, 
was on very friendly terms with the grand- 
son of the candidate for the rabbinate at 

Baron Lionel had five children two 
daughters and three sons. The daughters, 
Leonora and Eveline, married members of their 
own family; the first became the wife of 
Alphonse Maier, of Paris, and the second of 
Ferdinand Rothschild, of Vienna. His son 
Nathan was married to Emma, daughter of 
Baron Charles de Rothschild of Frankfort, and 
Leopold took to wife the daughter of the 
banker Perugia, of Trieste. Alfred remained 
a bachelor. 

Baron Lionel had a much better balanced 
nature than that of his father. He had not 
merely some sense of humour, but was himself 
a witty and brilliant man, though his sayings 
were usually connected with business life. He 
remained at the head of the London house for 


The English Rothschilds 

nearly half-a-century, and died on June 5, 
1879, in his seventy-first year, leaving the 
throne of the financial dynasty in England to 
his eldest son Nathan. At that time the for- 
tune of the London Rothschilds is said to have 
amounted to more than a hundred million 

Nathan, the second of that name, was even 
more fortunate than his father in regard to 
titles; he is an hereditary baronet and a peer 
since 1885. Just as his father, Lionel, was the 
first Jewish member of the British Parliament, 
Nathan was the first Jew to enter the House 
of Lords, and he has much the same character 
for business as his grandfather. He gives 
the closest attention to it; the whole City 
looks to him for hints, and he manages his 
agents with the same ability as his great pre- 
decessor who laid the foundation of the house. 
A number of agents come to his desk early in 
the morning to receive his instructions, and it 
is said that no one goes near him of whom he 
has not asked a question or to whom he has 
not some instruction to give. However im- 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

portant the business may be, he never gives 
any one more time than is necessary. Swithin's 
Lane is not a place for long conversations, 
as a rule. Nathan had disliked such things, 
and his example is followed by his grandson, 
and by Lord Rothschild's brothers, Leopold 
and Alfred, who share the work with him 
in order that the vast machinery may not be 
a moment idle. In the middle of the lofty 
room in which the brothers Rothschild work 
together there are two desks, with a third at 
one side. At the central desk sits an elderly 
gentleman with piercing eye and short white 
beard : that is Lord Rothschild. Opposite him 
is his younger brother Leopold, who is nearly 
sixty-eight years old, and just as active as his 
seventy-two-year-old brother. At the side desk 
sits Alfred, who is interested in science and art 
as well as in commercial matters. 

Here, in Swithin's Lane, is still the cradle 
of State-loans. The financial position of many 
a State still depends on the London house of 
the Rothschilds. Here the great campaigns 
are worked out, and from this lofty chamber 



f>\' f-'lliult t~ /" \ . 

The English Rothschilds 

are directed operations which are felt all over 
the globe. 

On the wall of the modest gabled house in 
a narrow street, which represents the residence 
of the Rothschilds, one may still see the old 
sign of the firm, which the founder of the 
London branch had nailed there 

It is as if the Frankfort ancestor still kept 
watch, to see that his three descendants at the 
three desks in the lofty room did their duty 
in turn. 




THE founder of the great financial dynasty, 
the aged Maier Amschel Rothschild, still lived 
in the narrow Jew Street of the Frankfort 
ghetto when the youngest of his five sons set 
out to earn his fortune. The young Roths- 
childs had not to set out on their travels as 
Jewish youths so often did at that time, or as 
the older Amschel had done, when, literally, 
he walked, staff in hand and wallet on his back, 
to Hanover. The sons had no need to face the 
world on foot; there were coaches at their dis- 
posal, and they did not leave the paternal 
house to seek a modest living somewhere or 
other, but with a definite goal before their eyes. 
They were to establish more or less independ- 
ent filial banks of the Frankfort parent-house 
in the great capitals of Europe. The white- 
haired Maier Amschel, in the Frankfort Jew 

Baron James Rothschild 

Street, had divided Europe amongst his sons, 
and the sons went forth to occupy their thrones 
and consolidate their power. The eldest, 
Nathan, won success and fame at London, 
where he augmented the fortune of the Roths- 
childs day by day. The third son, Karl 
Rothschild, had the great task of regula- 
ting the finances of the Pope in distant Italy. 
Solomon, the second son, pitched his tent at 
Vienna, and became the master of the Ex- 
change in that imperial city. The eldest son, 
Anselm, received his father's heritage, the con- 
trol of the parent-house at Frankfort; and the 
subjugation of Paris was entrusted to the 
youngest of the Rothschilds, James. 

James Rothschild had an easier task at Paris 
than his father had had at Frankfort. When 
the Benjamin of the family reached the metro- 
polis of France the name of Rothschild, for 
which Maier Amschel had won respect through- 
out Europe, was a sufficient letter of recom- 
mendation. There was already in the name 
the magic ring, the soft melody, of gold. It 
already stood for money, financial power, 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

colossal wealth, mountains and rivers of gold. 
The money of which it was the symbol was not 
the buried treasure of a Darius, but the money 
that works, struggles, and increases, the money 
that sheds blessings and has an influence 
wherever it appears, the money that promotes 
the prosperity of commercial and economic life. 

It was in the year 1812 that James, the 
youngest son of Maier Amschel, settled at 
Paris. The metropolis of France was as much 
under the influence of the Rothschilds as any 
other city, but James, who was still very young, 
did not embark on any large enterprises. His 
first work was to study the place in which he 
trusted to do great things. He must first learn 
the surroundings and the people with whom he 
would have to deal ; like a general finding out 
the weaknesses of his opponents. 

At first James Rothschild, who was barely 
twenty years old, was merely the agent of his 
brother Nathan at London; he had to work 
very quietly, doing his share in the payment 
of the English subsidies to the allies. As long 

as Napoleon remained in power the Roths- 

Baron James Rothschild 

childs could not openly undertake any opera- 
tions of importance in France. Nathan, the 
head of the London house, who was the brain 
of the family and had a great influence on his 
brothers, wished to be convinced of the serious 
interest of his younger brother in business 
before he set him to do important work. In 
the year 1817 he felt that the time had come, 
and, together with James, he founded the Paris 
firm under the name of " Rothschild Freres." 

The new Parisian banking-house was not 
long content with small transactions. James 
knew from the conduct of his father and 
brothers that small business was not the busi- 
ness of the Rothschilds. It was not necessary 
for him to do the laborious work of laying the 
foundations of the firm, as other bankers 
needed to do, in order to secure credit and 
capital for large transactions. He entered the 
Parisian arena of financial struggle with a com- 
plete material equipment for his work, and 
regarded the negotiation of State-loans as the 
chief branch of business for his house. That 
was the field in which his father and brothers 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

had won their greatest successes, and he in turn 
would try his fortune in it. He therefore con- 
centrated his forces on State-loans and the 
Exchange, and looked to them for his greatest 
successes. He anxiously awaited a favourable 
opportunity, and prepared with great care for 
his first campaign, so that he might prove his 
business ability on the Exchange and win 
repute and authority at once in the markets of 
the world for the young Parisian firm. 

His opportunity came in the year 1824. In 
that year the French minister of finance, the 
Marquis Villele, put forward a project of 
converting an older five per cent. State-loan 
into a three per cent. The conversion took 
place at the beginning of May 1825 with the 
co-operation of James Rothschild, after long 
financial struggles ; it took the form of a thirty- 
million francs rente, that is to say, on the basis 
of a capital of a thousand million francs. An- 
other five per cent. French loan, amounting 
to 47,727,000 francs, was at the same time con- 
verted into a three per cent. In order to be in 
a position to carry out this change the Roths- 

Baron James Rothschild 

child house was permitted by the Government 
to issue certificates "to bearer," which the 
director of the Treasury attested in the name 
of the Rothschild house. In this, therefore, it 
acted as creditor of the Treasury ; this was the 
first State-loan which the still youthful James 

This loan was soon followed by another. 
This was the four per cent, loan which the 
French Government needed in 1828 for 
military purposes and for the support of the 
Greeks in their war against the Turks. It 
amounted to eighty million francs, and was 
knocked down to the Rothschilds, who were 
the highest bidders, at the rate of 102 '7^. 

James Rothschild was then, and had 
been since 1822, Consul-General of the Austro- 
Hungarian monarchy, and in the same year he 
became a baron together with his brothers. In 
his sentiments he remained just as conservative 
as his brothers, as the house owed its prosperity 
precisely to its conservatism, but Baron James 
departed from the family tradition in external 
matters. He was now something more than a 
K 145 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

son of the Frankfort ghetto; he was a baron, 
and lived accordingly. His handsome palace, 
in the Renaissance style, at number 40 in the 
Rue Lafitte, was known as "the Versailles of 
the absolute monarch of the financial world," 
and Baron James surpassed the wealthiest 
members of the higher French nobility in dis- 
play. His money was, of course, the basis of 
his power, and everybody in France at the time 
did reverence to it except the Prince of 

Even in the royal family the Prince of 
Orleans was the only one who refused to bow 
to the new financial potentate, who dimmed 
the splendour of the old French nobles, and 
to whom every salon of distinction, except his, 
was open. By the year 1841 the Parisian 
Rothschild enjoyed a recognised power, yet he 
could not succeed in getting admission to the 
brilliant festivities with which the Prince of 
Orleans entertained the higher nobility at 
Chantilly. In the eyes of the prince Baron 
James was, in spite of his title, no more than a 
Jewish parvenu, who, in his opinion, had no 

Baron James Rothschild 

business to be found in the festive gatherings 
of French nobles. 

When the prince died there was not a single 
salon in the highest society of Paris that did not 
willingly open its doors to the "great baron 
of finance"; even the conservative Prince 
Nemours sometimes received Baron James at 
his table. James had obtained a firm foothold 
at Paris, and was a power with which every- 
body had to reckon. 

Prince Metternich, in a confidential letter to 
the Austrian ambassador at Paris, Count Ap- 
ponyi, described the power of the Rothschilds 
in the following words : " The house of the 
Rothschilds plays a much more important part 
in France than any foreign Government, ex- 
cept, perhaps, the English. There are very 
natural reasons for this, though I do not think 
them good, and still less regard them as 
morally satisfactory; in France money is the 
mainspring. People count quite openly on 
corruption, practically the most important 
element of the modern representative system." 

Baron James did not scruple to make use of 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

corruption in France; he gave bribes and 
bought people, as was then the custom in 
France. It was not his fault, but that of 
France, where bribes had been given long 
before the time of James Rothschild. He 
merely adapted himself to the prevailing 
customs, and increased his power by giving 

His power is well illustrated by a remark of 
Heinrich Heine, who often mentions James 
Rothschild in his account of events in France 
at the time 

' The king will not pay the pension of the 
Prince Nemours, for the very good reason that 
he has not the money to pay. His civil list is 
loaded with appalling sums ; according to what 
a banker told me yesterday, his debts amount 
to more than twenty million francs. On 
account of this scarcity of money Rothschild 
is treated with the greatest consideration by the 
French court. A few centuries ago the King 
of France would simply have had his teeth 
pulled out in order to compel him to advance 

money. But the naive ethic of the Middle 

Baron James Rothschild 

Ages was swept away by the storms of the 
Revolution, and Rothschild, as a baron and 
knight of the Order of Isabella, can take a 
quiet walk in the Tuileries whenever he likes, 
without the least fear of losing a tooth to the 
king, in spite of his want of money." 

In many passages of his writings Heine 
gives us a characteristic portrait of Baron 
James. At one place he says 

" The outbreak of war, which is inevitable, 
has been deferred for the present. Short- 
sighted politicians, who have recourse only to 
palliatives, are satisfied and hope for days of 
untroubled peace. Our financiers, especially, 
are very optimistic. Even the greatest of them 
seems to entertain the illusion, but not at all 
times. M. de Rothschild, who has been unwell 
for some time, is quite recovered and looks 
well. The men who read the signs of the times 
on the Exchange and make a study of the 
baron's physiognomy assure us that the 
swallows of peace nest in his smiles, that all 
concern about war has disappeared from his 
countenance, that there is no lightning in his 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

eyes, and that, therefore, the thunder of the 
guns, which threatened the world, is not going 
to break on us. He breathes peace. It is true 
that the last time I had the honour of waiting 
on the baron he was radiant with pleasant feel- 
ing, and his rosy mood almost broke into 
poetry; as I said once before, when the baron 
is in a good mood he tries to give expression 
to his overflowing humour in verse. I thought 
he was on this occasion particularly successful 
in his verse ; he could not, however, find a word 
to rhyme with ' Constantinople/ and scratched 
his head, as all poets do when they cannot find 
a rhyme. As I am a bit of a poet myself, I 
ventured to observe to the baron that possibly 
a Russian ' sable ' [zobel] would rhyme with 
Constantinople. This did not please him, 
however. He declared that England would 
never forgive him, and it might lead to a 
European war, which would cost the world 
much blood and tears, and cost him a good 
deal of money. 

"M. de Rothschild is, in point of fact, the 
best political barometer I will not say 

Baron James Rothschild 

' weather- frog,' as the word is not quite respect- 
ful. One must have respect for this man, if 
it be only on account of the respect which he 
imposes on most people. I like best to visit 
him in his office at the bank, where, as a philo- 
sopher, I can observe how people not only 
God's people, but all others bow and scrape 
before him. It is a contortion of the spine 
which the finest acrobat would find it difficult 
to imitate. I saw men double up as if they 
had touched a Voltaic battery when they ap- 
proached the baron. Many are overcome with 
awe at the door of his office, as Moses once was 
on Mount Horeb, when he discovered that he 
was on holy ground. Moses took off his shoes, 
and I am quite certain that a lot of these 
financial agents would do the same, when they 
venture to enter the office of Baron Rothschild, 
if they did not fear that the smell of their feet 
would be unpleasant to him. This private 
cabinet of his is a very remarkable spot, inspir- 
ing one with lofty ideas and sentiments, as the 
sight of the sea or the starry heavens does. 
Here we see how little man is and how great 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

God is ! For money is the god of our time, 
and Rothschild is its prophet. 

" Some years ago, when I went once to see 
M. de Rothschild, a gold-laced lackey brought 
his chamber-vessel along the corridor, and 
some speculator from the Bourse, who was 
passing, reverently lifted his hat to the impres- 
sive vessel. Such, to put it respectfully, is the 
respect of some folk. I committed the name 
of the man to memory, and am quite sure that 
he will become a millionaire in the course of 
time. Once, when I told him that I had 
lunched en famille with Baron Rothschild at 
his offices, he raised his hands in astonishment, 
and said that I had received a favour that had 
hitherto been reserved for Rothschilds of the 
blood, or at the most granted to a ruling prince ; 
he himself would have given half his nose for 
it. I may say that, even if the gentleman lost 
half his nose he would still have an appreciable 

' The business premises of M. de Roths- 
child are very extensive : a labyrinth of rooms, 
a barrack of wealth. The room in which the 

Baron James Rothschild 

baron works from morning to night he has 
nothing else to do but work has recently been 
finely decorated. On the mantelpiece there is 
now a marble bust of the Emperor Francis of 
Austria, with whom the Rothschild house has 
done most of its business. Piety will induce 
the baron to have busts made of all the Euro- 
pean monarchs to whbm his firm has advanced 
loans, and this collection of marble busts ought 
to represent a much finer Valhalla than that 
at Regensburg. Whether M. Rothschild will 
honour his Valhalla heroes in rhyme or in un- 
rhymed royal Bavarian lapidary style, I cannot 

Heine lived at Paris in those interesting and 
eventful days, and he always connected the 
threads of all important episodes with the 
person of Baron James Rothschild. The firma- 
ment of France was at that time darkened by 
the perpetual menace of war, and, when the 
clouds became thicker, Heine wrote 

" French bonds, which had already fallen 
two per cent, during the day, made a further 
drop of two per cent, on the Tortonian night- 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Bourse. It is said that Baron Rothschild has 
the toothache. Others say that he suffers from 
colic. What will be the issue? The storm 
comes nearer and nearer. We can already hear 
the rustle of the wings of the Valkyries in the 


The political situation was assuredly often 
and seriously threatened. Baron James was 
always well informed beforehand of events, 
and he often appeared as the Napoleon of 
peace. His intervention, however, was not 
always crowned with success, and his informa- 
tion could not always be described as 
thoroughly reliable. Moreover, there were 
many successful speculations to his disadvan- 
tage on the Bourse ; as there were before Louis 
Philippe acceded to the throne. At that time, 
in the year 1830, the famous Parisian banker 
Ouvrard succeeded in getting information 
about the ominous ordinances of the Polignac 
ministry a week before they were published, 
while James had no authentic information 
about them until the last moment. These 
ordinances, which withdrew the rights of the 

Baron James Rothschild 

people which were guaranteed in the funda- 
mental law, such as the liberty of the Press and 
the right of assembly, were, as is known, the 
immediate cause of the July Revolution and 
the fall of the Bourbon dynasty. 

Ouvrard at once appreciated the effect of 
the publication. As soon as he was sure of 
the facts, he admitted a few Parisian bankers 
and Exchange agents to his plans, and then 
hastened to London with his campaign drawn 
up. When he reached the English capital, he 
flung the French State-securities on the market, 
the rate steadily falling, in such quantities that 
he terrified the London house of the Roths- 
childs and forced them to buy up the bonds in 
order to keep up the price. The Rothschilds 
then sent an express courier to Paris in order 
to discover the motive of these enormous sales 
on the part of Ouvrard. But the Paris house 
could give no explanation. Baron James, who 
had undertaken a four per cent, loan for the 
Government only a few months before, hurried 
in great excitement to the Premier Polignac on 
July 24th to ask for information. There was a 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

good deal of talk at the time of the possibility 
of the ordinances being issued, but nothing was 
known with certainty. 

When Baron James returned from Prince 
Polignac, he said openly on the Bourse that on 
the word of honour of the Premier, the ordin- 
ances in question had indeed been meditated, 
but that there had been no serious thought of 
them recently, and the rumour that they were 
to be published at once was "without founda- 
tion." The very next day Charles X signed 
the ordinances, and on the following day they 
appeared in the Moniteur. 

This was the chief reason why the whole of 
the loans, amounting to 78,500,000 francs, were 
thrown upon the Rothschild firm and its 
colleagues, as the value of the bonds fell 
between twenty and thirty per cent. Long 
afterwards these securities had still such a bad 
name that it was impossible to find a purchaser. 
The whole business, however, was less mis- 
chievous to the Rothschilds themselves than to 
their associates, as the latter had taken the 
greater part of the bonds. They therefore 


Baron James Rothschild 

bitterly reproached the Rothschilds for leaving 
them in the lurch. Whether or no the charge 
was just in this one instance, even the enemies 
of the Rothschilds must admit that the five 
descendants of the Frankfort ghetto-family 
always shared their enormous profits with their 
business friends. Moreover, the July revolu- 
tion, which followed this disastrous transaction, 
was one of those events which no man could 
have foreseen. 

Ouvrard, through getting early information 
about the ordinances, made at one stroke a 
profit which his chief agent Amet estimated at 
two million francs. Baron James lost a whole 
fortune in the business, but he had still enor- 
mous wealth. He was still regarded as the 
richest man in France. In the 'forties of the 
nineteenth century statistics were compiled in 
regard to the wealthy men in France. The list 
affords an interesting picture of the material 
condition of the times. We gather from it that 
the capital of such important firms as the 
Lafitte Brothers and Delamarre was estimated 
at ten million francs each, the capital of 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Bandon at twelve million francs, and that of 
the Rougemonts and Lafonds at fifteen 
millions. All these men were regarded as 
great financiers, though their fortune [400,000 
to 600,000] would be considered small in 
America to-day. Those whose capital reached 
twenty million francs or more wielded an 
almost unlimited power. Durand, Delessert, 
Halphen and Aquirrevengon had twenty 
millions, Hottinger and Pellaprat twenty-five 
millions, Fould thirty millions, and Hoop 
forty. The fortune of Baron Gressulhe was 
then estimated at a hundred millions [four 
million sterling]. 

Baron James Rothschild stood far above 
them all with a capital of six hundred millions. 
There was only one wealthier man in France 
the King, whose fortune was estimated at 
eight hundred million francs. Prince Aumale, 
with his seventy millions, was out of com- 
parison with the Jewish Crcesus. James 
Rothschild possessed individually nearly a 
hundred and fifty million francs more than all 
the other French bankers put together. He 

Baron James Rothschild 

had acquired all this in about a quarter of a 
century. It is quite true that he had brought 
the first millions from Frankfort, but he had 
increased them a hundredfold by his own 

With the help of this enormous fortune he 
attained, as we have seen, an irresistible power, 
and was even able to overthrow governments. 
He succeeded, for instance, in bringing about 
the fall of the powerful minister Thiers. His 
power 'was known to everybody. It was dis- 
cussed everywhere, from the Bourse to the 
barber's shop. Heine sarcastically describes 
in his Reisebildern his meeting the man who 
attended to the baron's corns, and what the 
man said to him 

" I pay respect where it is due, as I said to 
M. le Baron Rothschild when I had the honour 
of cutting his corns. As I cut them, I reflected 
in my mind : thou now hast in thy hands the 
foot of the man who holds the whole world in 
his hands ; thou art now a man of consequence. 
If thou cuttest a little too sharply into the sole, 
he will be annoyed and cut the greatest kings 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

worse than ever. It was the happiest moment 
of my life." 

Certainly the power that lay in the hands of 
James Rothschild became greater and greater. 
He conducted the ablest campaigns on the 
Paris Bourse. His plans were always kept 
secret from everybody, and he struck his 
opponent suddenly and unexpectedly. He had 
hardly ended one campaign before he began 
another. He surprised and crushed the other 
financiers on the Bourse, forced them to be his 
vassals, and enlisted them in the service of his 

In the course of time he included in his pro- 
gramme the founding of railways, in addition 
to his work on the Bourse and the organisation 
of State-loans. In the year 1840 he undertook 
the construction of the " Northern Line," which 
the State itself ought to have undertaken. 
Baron James, however, set all his machinery in 
motion to induce the State to drop its plan ; he 
did not shrink from giving enormous bribes in 
order to secure the silence of the Press and 
the Parliament. The railway company issued 

Baron James Rothschild 

300,000 shares at 500 francs each, and of these 

the members of the two legislative bodies 

received, as "gifts," 15,000 shares, of a 

collective value of 7,500,000 francs. This sum 

was required in order to win the Deputies of 

Parliament and the members of the Upper 

House for Rothschild's plans. The Press was 

disarmed in the same way. The editors of the 

various papers received, according to their 

respective influence, seventy or a hundred, or 

a hundred and fifty shares, in the form of 

presents. All the journals were then silent, 

except one, the Paris National. Rothschild 

had sent the editor a hundred shares, but he 

sharply rejected the present which was worth 

fifty thousand francs and could not be won 

for Rothschild's cause at any price. The 

struggle made by the National was fruitless, 

however. Baron Rothschild eventually got the 

concession of the railway. 

Heine wrote at some length at the time of 
Baron James and the Northern Railway affair. 
He says 

' The house of Rothschild, which has asked 
L 161 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

the concession of the railway, and will probably 
get it, is not a society in the ordinary sense of 
the word; every share in its operations which 
it grants to other individuals is a favour, or, 
to put it more correctly, a present of money 
which M. de Rothschild makes to his friends. 
The shares, or the so-called promises of the 
Rothschild house, are already several hundred 
francs above par, and therefore any person who 
asks them of Baron James de Rothschild at 
par is really a beggar. However, everybody is 
now begging of him; it rains begging letters, 
and as distinguished people set the example, 
there is no shame in it. M. de Rothschild is, 
on that account, the hero of the hour; in fact, 
he plays so important a part in our modern life 
that I must describe him as frequently and 
seriously as possible. He is, in point of fact, 
a very remarkable person. I am no judge of 
his financial ability, but it must be very con- 
siderable, judging from results. He has a rare 
faculty of observation, or an instinct for 
appreciating the capabilities of other people in 

every sphere of life. In that respect he has 

Baron James Rothschild 

been compared to Louis XIV, and it is a fact 
that, differently from his colleagues, who are 
always surrounded by a general staff of 
mediocrities, we always find Baron James in 
intimate relations with the most distinguished 
people in every department. Even if he knew 
nothing about a particular field, he would be 
sure to know who was the best man in it. 
Possibly he does not know a single note of 
music, yet Rossini was always a personal friend 
of his. Ary Scheffer is his court painter. 
Careme was his cook. M. de Rothschild 
certainly does not know a word of Greek, yet 
the Hellenist Letronne is the savant whom he 
most respects. His physician was the able 
Dupuytren, and there was quite a fraternal 
feeling between them. He was one of the 
first to appreciate the ability of Cremieux, the 
distinguished jurist, who has a great future 
before him, and Cremieux found in him a loyal 
supporter. In the same way he appreciated 
from the start the political capacity of Louis 
Philippe, and was always in the confidence of 
that master of statecraft. Emile Pereire, the 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Pontifex Maximus of the railways, was entirely 
a discovery of his; he made him his first 
engineer and employed him to make the line to 
Versailles. Poetry, both French and German, 
is much appreciated by M. de Rothschild, 
though it seems to me that here he is rather 
polite, and that in reality the baron is not so 
enthusiastic for our living poets as for the great 
dead Homer, Sophocles, Dante, Cervantes, 
Shakespeare, Goethe, and other earlier poets, 
men of acknowledged genius, who, freed from 
all earthly toils, no longer feel the pinch of this 
life or desire shares in the Northern Railway. 

" At the present time Rothschild's star is at 
its zenith. I am not sure if I am not a little 
wanting in respect in saying that M. de Roths- 
child is merely a star. He will not, however, 
scold me, as Louis XIV once fell angrily on 
a poor poet who had had the impertinence to 
compare him to a star ; he was more accustomed 
to being called the sun, and had adopted that 
heavenly body as his official symbol. 

' To be quite safe, nevertheless, I will liken 
M. de Rothschild to the sun, because, in the 

Baron James Rothschild 

first place, it costs me nothing ; and because, as 
a matter of fact, it is appropriate enough at the 
present time, when everybody worships him 
and trusts to be warme'd by his golden rays. . . . 
Between ourselves, this worshipping mania is 
somewhat troublesome to the poor sun ; it has 
no rest from its worshippers, and there are a 
good many of them who are really not worthy 
that the sun should shine on them. These 
Pharisees sing their praises and prices very 
loudly, and the poor baron suffers so much 
moral torture from them that one is bound to 
feel sympathy for him. I am inclined to think 
that his money is more of a curse than a bless- 
ing to him. If he had a hard character, he 
would have less to suffer, but so kindly and 
good-natured a man as he is must be deeply 
hurt by the sight of all the misery that he is 
called upon to assuage, the claims that are 
constantly made on him, and the ingratitude 
that follows each of his acts of charity. Exces- 
sive wealth is, perhaps, harder to bear than 
poverty. I advise any man who is in great 
need of money to go to M. de Rothschild : not 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

for the purpose of begging anything (I doubt if 
he would get much), but in order to find comfort 
in the sight of his misery amid wealth. The 
poor devil who has too little and cannot help 
himself will then see that there is a man who 
suffers far more than he because he has too 
much money, because all the money in the 
world flows into his capacious pockets, and 
because he has to carry about with him this 
intolerable burden while a crowd of hungry 
men and thieves gather about him and stretch 
out their hands to him. And what fearful and 
dangerous hands they are ! ' How do you 
do? ' a German poet once asked the baron. ' I 
am mad/ the baron replied. * When I see you 
throwing money out of the window I will 
believe it,' said the poet. The baron answered 
with a sigh : ' That is precisely my madness, 
that I do not often throw money out of the 
window.' ' 

Heine, living in close touch with Baron 
Rothschild, did not himself escape the fever 
for speculation. But the goddess of fortune 
did not favour the great poet, and he lost on 

Baron James Rothschild 

'Change many a fee that he got for his works. 
He did not lose his humour with his money, 
however, and he said to Baron James, smiling 

"The Bourse taught me a great truth; it 
taught me that to speculate on it is a sin if 
you lose." 

Heine did not take his speculations very 
much to heart, but generally laughed about 
them. One day Baron Rothschild asked him 
whether he had lost anything in a big slump 
that had occurred on the Bourse. 

"Anything? A good deal," the poet said. 
" But it serves me right. I now see how right 
the Rabbi of Prague was." 

"The Rabbi of Prague?" asked Baron 

' Yes. It is an old story that I heard when 
I was a boy, and just occurred to me. The 
Rabbi of Prague was crossing the bridge when 
he met an old Jewess who cried desperately 
to him : ' My God, my God ! Help, Rabbi, 
help! What shall I do?' 

" ' What is the matter ? ' asked the Rabbi. 
' My son has broken his leg.' 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

" ' Broken his leg ? How did he do that ? ' 

" ' He fell off a ladder an3- 

'"Off a ladder?' interrupted the Rabbi. 
' Serves him right. What was a Jewish youth 
doing on a ladder? ' 

" So you see, baron," Heine concluded, with 
a laugh, "the same thing happened to me. 
What was a poet doing on the Bourse ? " 

James Rothschild knew at that time what it 
was to lose on the Bourse, though the losses 
did not disturb him, as his millions increased 
from day to day. It was not so much now by 
speculation on the Bourse as by the construction 
of railways. Baron James was no longer con- 
tent to confine himself to French railway 
enterprises, but extended his operations to 
foreign countries. He constructed, for instance, 
the railways of Belgium, and by this he and 
his brothers considerably enlarged their for- 
tunes. The chief success of the Rothschilds 
was not exactly in the building of railways, but 
in their speculations with the shares. When 
they founded railway companies in the form of 
limited liability companies, they never put the 
1 68 

Baron James Rothschild 

shares on the market, but either took them up 
themselves to the full amount, or let one or two 
allied banks, such as the Lafitte-Blount or the 
Hottinger firms, into the transaction. This 
was done, for instance, at the establishment of 
the French railway, when Baron James himself 
took up more than a hundred thousand out 
of the four hundred thousand shares. The 
nominal value of the shares was five hundred 
francs, but the advantage of keeping them was 
soon seen when, in a very short time, they ran 
up to nine hundred francs. When the price 
reached its highest point Baron James suddenly 
sold his shares, and in this single transaction 
made a profit of more than forty million 

Baron James always found time, amid his 
enterprises and speculations, to pay tribute to 
charity, although his contemporaries by no 
means describe him as a soft-hearted man. It 
is true that his benevolence was generally 
noticed in connection with Jewish subjects. 
When on one occasion the troubles of the Jews 
at Damascus exposed many Jewish families to 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

the fanaticism of the Orientals, Baron Roths- 
child did not hesitate a moment to come to 
their assistance. He saw that the Jews of 
Damascus could not rely on any effective pro- 
tection on the part of the Government; he 
therefore had several ships fitted out, and sent 
them to the relief of his co-religionists, while 
the other wealthy Jews of Paris did nothing 
whatever for the sufferers. 

Heine wrote at the time 

' The Jews of France have been too long 
emancipated to keep the bonds of the race very 
tightly about them; they have almost entirely 
adopted French nationality. They are just as 
French as their neighbours, and have outbursts 
of enthusiasm which may last for twenty-four 
hours and even, if the sun is hot enough, for 
three days. . . . That is true of the best of them. 
Many of them still practice the Jewish cere- 
monial, the external cult, mechanically, without 
knowing why, merely out of custom; of inner 
belief there is not a trace, for the witty acid of 
Voltairean criticism has done its work in the 
synagogue as well as in the Christian Church. 

Baron James Rothschild 

For the French Jews, as for the French gener- 
ally, gold is the god of the hour, and industry 
is the prevailing religion. In this respect the 
Jews of our time might be divided into two 
sects, the sect of the rive droite and the sect of 
the rive gauche. The names are taken from 
the two railways which run to Versailles along 
the Seine, one on the right bank and one on the 
left; they are controlled by two famous rabbis 
of finance, who diverge from each other as 
much as Rabbi Samai and Rabbi Hillel did in 
the earlier Babylon. 

"We must do the grand-rabbi of the rive 
droite, Baron Rothschild, the justice of saying 
that he has shown a nobler sympathy for the 
house of Israel than his learned antagonist, 
the grand-rabbi of the rive gauche, M. Benoit 
Fould, who, while his co-religionists were 
persecuted and oppressed in Syria at the 
instigation of a French consul, made a few 
speeches in the French Chamber of Deputies 
on the conversion of bonds and the bank-dis- 
count with the calm, detached air of a Hillel." 
Heine then goes on to speak of the Damascus 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

trouble, the cause of which was the old calumny 
of killing children. He says 

" M. Thiers asserts in his morning audiences 
with an air of the firmest conviction that it is 
unquestionable that the Jews drink Christian 
blood on the feast of the Passover; chacini a 
son gout. All the witnesses have stated that 
the Rabbi of Damascus killed Father Thomas 
and drank his blood probably his flesh was 
divided among minor officials of the synagogue. 
In this, he says, we find a sombre superstition 
and religious fanaticism surviving in the east, 
though the western Jews are more humane and 
enlightened; many of them are quite dis- 
tinguished for freedom from prejudice and for 
good taste. There is M. de Rothschild, for 
instance, who, if he does not belong to the 
Christian Church, is at all events an adherent 
of Christian cooking, and has taken into his 
service the greatest cook in Christendom, the 
favourite of Talleyrand, formerly Bishop of 

' That was the kind of talk you might hear 
from the child of the Revolution. . . . And he 

Baron James Rothschild 

spoke so convincingly that one was compelled 
to believe in the end that the Jews dined on 
the flesh of Capuchin monks." 

While Heine penned his brilliant accounts 
of his time, Baron James continued to increase 
his fortune. He worked and fought with 
incredible endurance ; sometimes he won, some- 
times he was beaten. As often as he won his 
millions grew larger. All his enterprises were 
blessed with an almost fabulous success, and 
he seemed to emerge with rejuvenated strength 
even from the struggles in which he was 

On one occasion he suffered a really severe 
loss, but it was due to embezzlement. His 
fortune, however, bore the loss without waver- 
ing, though the amount was considerable. The 
cashier of the Northern Railway, Carpentier, 
was the culprit, and the fraud, which took place 
in September 1856, ran to millions of francs. 
This unprecedented loss is described as follows 
in a journal of the time 

' The mystery that has enveloped the robbery 
of the Northern Railway is being gradually 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

cleared up. The directors of the company 
naturally seek to minimise the fraud as much 
as possible, as it does little credit to their 
vigilance and foresight. At first they tried 
to prevent the publication of any reference to 
the affair. The Paris press was bought by 
them, but foreign papers were not prepared to 
be silent about the affair, and the Northern 
Railway was compelled to give an explanation, 
in which the loss is stated at about six million 
francs. This statement is not at all correct. It 
refers only to the loss in shares, whereas the 
cash-boxes also were almost emptied by the 
thieves. In the smaller cash-box alone there 
were 1,800,000 francs. What loss the Northern 
Railway, itself has sustained, we are not 
informed. It would, in fact, be difficult to 
determine it, as nearly all the documents were 
destroyed by the thieves. The sum embezzled 
by them is estimated at from thirty to thirty- 
two million francs. However, the Northern 
Railway has not to bear the whole loss; MM. 
Rothschild, Andre and de Morny lose ten 
millions each of the sum. Carpentier and 

Baron James Rothschild 

Grellet and their confederates must have been 
engaged for a considerable time in carrying out 
their project, as they had realised large sums 
before they fled, and had bought a steamer in 
England for 1,800,000 francs months before. 
From the papers that were found after their 
flight it seems that they had bought a house in 
New York. For this reason it is believed that 
they have gone to America by way of England. 
How long Carpentier and Grellet have been 
carrying on their frauds cannot be accurately 
determined; it is known only that they have 
been selling shares on the Bourse for a long 
time. They had acted with great astuteness 
so as to be able to report the requisite number 
at the revision of the shares, which was 
entrusted to them. 

" The shares deposited with the administra- 
tion are in parcels of a thousand. With the 
assistance of smaller clerks, who were bought 
by them, they took two or three hundred shares 
from each of these parcels and fastened the 
remainder together again. Hence, at the 
revision, which does not seem to have been 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

carried out very carefully, all the shares seemed 
to be there, and the thieves were thus enabled 
to realise a considerable sum before they 
carried out their final stroke. 

" Carpentier was the first to leave Paris. He 
had asked and obtained from Rothschild four 
days' leave of absence. On this occasion he 
had a long conversation with the baron, who 
was very fond of him. M. de Rothschild had 
just managed a very profitable piece of busi- 
ness, and told Carpentier that he had made five 
million francs by it. 

" ' If,' he added, ' I bring off my Algerian 
railway affair, I hope to add three millions to 
the five/ 

" ' Will you put the three before the five, or 
after it ? ' said Carpentier. ' Will it be thirty- 
five or fifty-three millions? Put it before, and 
give me the five; you will still have a neat little 

' I am not going to give you five millions,' 
said Rothschild, laughing at the joke, 'but 
here is my watch chain as a pleasant memento 
of the day.' 

Baron James Rothschild 

" The chain which Rothschild handed to 
Carpentier was one of great value. However, 
Carpentier had something larger than that in 
view; before he left Paris he sent it to his 
brother, who still has it. 

"As we see from this conversation, which 
Rothschild himself told to his friends, the 
wealthy baron was on very familiar terms with 
Carpentier. He loved him as his own son, and 
had secured for him the position of chief 
cashier to the Northern Railway. It will be 
understood, therefore, that Rothschild is 
terribly upset by the conduct of his protege, 
and would give anything to capture him. In 
giving his instructions to the Northern Railway 
official who was sent with detectives in pursuit 
of Carpentier, he opened an unlimited credit 
for him, and told him to spare no cost and 
shrink from no means; he would gladly give 
ten million francs to get Carpentier in his 
power, and, if there was any reluctance to give 
him up anywhere, they must bring him away 
by force. 

" From Paris Carpentier went straight to 
M 177 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

London, on August 31, and from there to 
Liverpool, where the steamer he had bought 
lay. He had her made ready at once and put 
out to sea, where he was to await his con- 
federates. After Carpentier's departure Grellet 
was entrusted with the charge of the cash- 
boxes, and on the day for paying the officials 
and workers of the Northern Railway he was 
not to be found. The head of the staff sent 
word to Rothschild that Grellet had not come. 
Rothschild, who had a second key of all the 
safes and did not suspect anything wrong, went 
to the offices to let them have the money to pay 
the employees. He opened the smaller safe 
and found it empty, and ordered the manager 
to keep the strictest silence about it. Then he 
opened the larger safe and found that also 
empty. The loss of the shares was not dis- 
covered until some time afterwards. 

' They at once made every effort to secure 
the thieves, but they had a long start; at Liver- 
pool it was learned that Grellet had taken a boat 
out to the steamer where Carpentier awaited 
him. Four other employees of the company 

Baron James Rothschild 

disappeared at the same time. Carpentier took 
his mistress, a certain Mile. Georgette, with 
him; he had supported her in luxury at Paris. 
Both he and Grellet are quite young. Carpen- 
tier is of a light complexion, and seems weak 
and pale, and has all the appearance of a man 
suffering from consumption. Grellet belongs 
to a very good family, which has means that are 
estimated at 500,00x3 francs. His mother is 
still alive. She became insane when she heard 
what her son had done. His uncle on the 
mother's side, M. Planchet, is a very respected 
man. Another uncle occupies a prominent 
position as a French magistrate. 

' The statement that the two young men were 
driven to the crime by their relations with 
women and losses on the Bourse is false. They 
both led very regular lives, and it was only in 
consequence of the crime that they recently 
spent a good deal of money. They were in no 
sense impelled to the crime by debt. Possibly 
this is the largest sum that has ever been stolen, 
but the Rothschild firm will be quite able to 
sustain the loss." 

M 2 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Thus the French press on the baron's enor- 
mous loss. On another occasion he made a 
quite unexpected profit. The famous painter 
Eugene Delacroix, who was struck with the 
features of Baron Rothschild, decided that he 
would like to have the baron for a model, 
dressed in a beggar's rags. The baron liked 
the idea, and consented. On the following day 
he went to the painter's studio, attired in the cos- 
tume proper to his part, and, when he knocked, 
one of the artist's pupils opened the door. He 
looked compassionately at the "poor beggar" 
and gave him a coin or two. The pupil was 
himself a poor youth, though he had consider- 
able talent. He was not a little astonished 
when, on the following day, a servant of 
Baron Rothschild handed him the following 


' You will find enclosed the capital 
which you handed to me at the door of M. 
Delacroix's studio, with the interest and com- 
pound interest on it a sum of ten thousand 
1 80 

Baron James Rothschild 

francs. You can cash the cheque at my bank 
in the Rue Lafitte whenever you like. 


Rothschild always liked to mix with artists, 
especially painters. He was, however, rather 
partial to the artists with whom he was person- 
ally acquainted, while many of the most distin- 
guished men of the artistic world were complete 
strangers to him. It happened once, for in- 
stance, that Baron James saw the artist Jadin on 
a scaffolding, doing a fresco, and cried to him, 
" Hello, you painter up there, come here, I want 
to speak to you." On another occasion he 
wanted the same artist to paint his portrait. It 
was nothing to him that Jadin's proper sphere 
was fresco-painting ; his idea was that, as Jadin 
was accustomed to doing such large pictures, 
a single face would be painted by him on very 
moderate terms. 

" Dear master," he said to the artist, " I want 
to have my portrait painted. But you must tell 
me first how much it will cost." 

The painter did not hesitate a second. 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

" Five thousand francs," he said firmly. 

" Oh, that is too much. What would it come 
to if I had my wife's portrait painted also ? " 

"Well," said the artist, "the two portraits 
would cost ten thousand francs. If one costs 
five thousand, two, naturally, cost ten thousand." 

Baron Rothschild did not attempt to bargain 
further. He took his hat, and avoided the 
artist for a long time. He was, however, deter- 
mined to have his portrait painted by a famous 
artist of the time, and, as Jadin would not do it, 
he turned to others. His choice fell on the 
famous battle-painter Horace Vernet : after the 
fresco-painter a battle-painter it throws light 
on the character and artistic ideas of James 
Rothschild. He went to Horace Vernet and 
asked the artist how much he would ask to 
paint a portrait. 

" For you, baron," was the reply, " my price 
is four thousand francs." 

" The devil ! " exclaimed the financier. " It 
is only a question of three or four strokes of 
your brush, and you want a sum like that." 

" Ah f " said the painter, shrugging his 

i-u.rm-: OF TKHIUKIKI) .n-:\v IN 
AT. s i-.\Mors IMCTI i'>i-:. 

Baron James Rothschild 

shoulders. ' You want to bargain when there 
is question of art, do you, baron? Well, now 
I want five thousand francs, and will not take 
a penny less." 

The baron gave a cry of astonishment. 

" If you say another word, I treble the fee," 
said the artist. 

The baron hurried from the studio. He 
thought the artist was mad. 

" Wait a minute," said the artist. " I will 
paint your portrait for nothing. Now you may 

Horace kept his word. In his great picture, 
" On the way to Smala," any one may recognise 
the face of the terrified Jew who is making off 
with a box full of money and jewels under his 
arm. The face exhibits the conflict of fear with 
the most sordid avarice, and its features are 
unmistakably those of the famous banker. The 
whole of Paris laughed over this misadventure 
of the financier, and his parsimoniousness cost 
him many an unpleasant quarter of an hour. 

When the great exhibition was held at Paris 
in 1855, Rothschild received from the Emperor 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Francis Joseph I the order of the Iron Crown, 
and at the same time he received the French 
Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. He 
remained, however, just as sparing in spite of 
his decorations. It was only twenty centimes 
(two pence) to enter the exhibition on Sundays, 
and more on week-days. On the first Sunday 
after the opening of the exhibition one of 
the first persons to enter was Baron James 

" That is the way to become a millionaire," 
said a journal of the time which gave the news; 
" never pay a franc for something you can get 
for twenty centimes." 

The baron was often pricked by the pens of 
French journalists on account of his meanness. 
His chief persecutor was the Constitutionel, a 
very popular paper of the time, much read at 
Paris. On one occasion it cynically put side 
by side two short notices which did not put the 
benevolence of the wealthy baron in a very 
favourable light. The first paragraph an- 
nounced, in terms of praise, that Cornelius, the 
great German painter, had given 300 for the 

Baron James Rothschild 

poor of the city of Frankfort. The other notice 
dryly announced 

" Baron James Rothschild, the great German 
financier, also gave yesterday a sum of twenty 
pounds for the poor of the city of Paris." 

The point of this malicious juxtaposition was 
obvious, and Paris laughed a good deal over 
the baron. However, the financier wished to 
have his revenge, and he asked Heine, of whose 
connection with the Paris Press he was well 
aware, to reply to the skit of the Constitutionel 
in some other journal. Heine laughed and 
closed his eyes in his usual way, and said that 
he would do so. A few days later the following 
paragraph appeared in the Figaro 

' The Constitutionel betrays a partisanship 
which is injurious to honourable men. It sings 
its hymns of praise only to those who have been 
favoured by the goddess Fortuna. Ordinary 
mortals are not noticed in its columns. A writer 
recently practised philanthropy on a far larger 
scale than Baron James Rothschild, in propor- 
tion to his means. The said writer gave a 
penny to a blind flute-player on the Pont des 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Arts, yet the Constitutionel has not said a 
word about the donation down to the present 

The famous French writer George Sand once 
discovered a clever way of making the baron 
pay more generously for a charitable object. 
During a bazaar which Princess Czartoriska 
organised at Paris for the benefit of the Poles, 
George Sand had charge of a stall laden with 
perfumes. Baron James passed the stall, and 
she cried to him 

" Won't you buy something from me, baron ? " 

" My God ! what do I want with perfumes?" 
said Rothschild. " I have a good idea, how- 
ever. Give me your autograph, and I will 
gladly pay for it." 

George Sand smiled; then she took a sheet 
of paper, wrote a few words on it, and gave it 
to the baron. His face fell when he found that 
the great writer had inscribed on it the following 

" Receipt 

for 1000 (in words, one thousand) francs, which 
1 86 

Baron James Rothschild 

I have to-day received from Baron James 
Rothschild for the benefit of the poor oppressed 


Rothschild made no trouble about the 
malicious joke ; he took out his pocket-book and 
paid the thousand francs in silence. 

Scribe, a very popular comedy-writer of the 
period, was passing George Sand's stall at the 
time, and, when he saw Baron James put down 
the thousand francs without a word, he remarked 

" For a great sorrow it is always difficult to 
find words." 

The witticism circulated from mouth to 
mouth in Paris, and caused much amusement; 
as did also George Sand's success in forcing the 
niggardly baron to pay so much. Heine heard 
of the matter and determined to avenge the 
baron on the writer, who was, in his opinion, a 
man of little ability. One evening when Heine 
was present amongst a large company at Roths- 
child's house, he began to praise Scribe in a 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

remarkable way. The baron noticed it, and 
asked Heine why he did it. 

" Oh, I can safely praise Scribe," said Heine 
quietly, " because I am sure that there is not a 
person in the room who believes a word I say 
about him." 

Baron James laughed outright, and Heine 
went on 

" Scribe will be immortal as long as he 
lives ! But not a day longer ! " 

Paris now laughed at Scribe, and indeed 
laughed more than it had ever done over any 
joke of Scribe's. 

There are, of course, no authentic documents 
to inform us whether Baron Rothschild, to 
whom Heine was of considerable service, ever 
gave material support to the great poet. 
Heine's circumstances were far from brilliant, 
but he was too proud ever to ask for assistance. 
One evening Rothschild noticed Heine humor- 
ously remarking to their host that a man must 
always have his purse in his hand at Paris, as 
everything costs money. It was no wonder, 
he said, that people like himself got into diffi- 

Baron James Rothschild 

culties; he could always find a use for a 
thousand-franc note. His words were over- 
heard by a financial upstart, who said affably 
to Heine 

" Let me lend you a thousand francs." 

Heine was annoyed that a man whom he had 
never seen before should offer him money. He 
looked sharply at the man for a moment, and 
then said 

' You, sir ... are not worth a thousand 
francs to me." 

Moreover, the suggestion that Heine received 
any material assistance from Baron James is 
not consistent with the fact that the poet, 
who never concealed his circumstances in his 
writings, does not mention receiving any money 
from Rothschild. He frequently speaks of 
other people who lent him money, but does not 
say a word about help from Baron James. It 
is, in fact, improbable that the great poet ever 
received anything from the financier, otherwise 
he would not have shown so much independ- 
ence as he did in regard to Rothschild, and 
would not have ventured to shoot the arrows 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

of his wit at him, as he often did. On the 
other hand, Rothschild would not have liked 
Heine so much if the friendship had cost him 

Baron James was very proud of his relations 
with Heine. He liked to have his dinners and 
other functions irradiated with the poet's most 
brilliant display of wit. Sometimes, however, 
he was disappointed. One evening, when 
Baron James particularly wished Heine to 
entertain his guests, the poet was singularly 

" What is the matter?" asked the baron. 
' You are usually so gay and full of witty 
remarks. . . ." 

" Quite right," said Heine. " But to-night I 
have exchanged views with my German friends, 
and my head is fearfully empty." 

After that he remained as silent as ever. 
Somewhere about the same time Baron James 
was conducting a large financial transaction, 
and he gave a very choice dinner in honour of 
the bankers who were staying in Paris. Heine 
was not invited to the dinner, but, when one of 

Baron James Rothschild 

the guests at table expressed a wish to meet the 
poet, Rothschild replied that it could easily be 
managed. He wrote a few lines on a piece of 
paper, asking Heine to come and take coffee 
with him. A footman took the note to Heine's 
house, and returned with this reply to the 
baron's invitation 

" M. le Baron, I usually take my coffee where 
I have had my dinner." 

Another of the distinguished writers who 
have referred to Rothschild in their works is 
Borne. He lived many years at Paris, and as 
he was, like Rothschild, a son of Frankfort on 
the Main the former Jew Street at Frankfort 
was afterwards called Borne Street he paid a 
good deal of attention to Baron James. Borne 
was, however, by no means enchanted with the 
youngest of the Rothschilds, and he often 
spoke very ironically of him. In one letter, for 
instance, he writes as follows 

u Paris, Saturday, January 28, 1832. 

" Rothschild has kissed the Pope's hand, and 
at his departure expressed his satisfaction with 
the successor of Peter in the most gracious 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

terms. Now things are getting at last into the 
order that God desired when He created the 
world. A poor Christian kisses the Pope's 
feet; a wealthy Jew kisses his hand. If Roths- 
child had put his Roman loan at 60 per cent, 
instead of 65, and so been able to give the car- 
dinal-chamberlain another 10,000 ducats, he 
might have been permitted to fall on the Holy 
Father's neck. The Rothschilds are assuredly 
much nobler than their ancestor Judas Iscariot. 
He sold Christ for thirty small pieces of silver; 
the Rothschilds would buy Him, if He were 
for sale. That seems to me very fine. Louis 
Philippe will have himself crowned if he is 
still king in a year's time; not at St. Remy at 
Rheims, but at Notre Dame de la Bourse at 
Paris, and Rothschild will officiate as arch- 
bishop. After the coronation pigeons will be 
sent out, as usual, and one of them, a turtle- 
dove, will fly to St. Helena, settle on Napoleon's 
grave, and laughingly inform his remains that 
they saw his successor anointed yesterday, not 
by the Pope, but by a Jew; and that the present 
ruler of France has taken the title, ' Emperor of 

Baron James Rothschild 

the five per cents., King of the three per cents., 
Protector of bankers and exchange-agents.' 
But I really do not know what the silly dove 
sees to laugh at in that. Would it not be a 
great blessing for the world if all the kings were 
dismissed and the Rothschild family put on 
their thrones ? Think of the advantages. The 
new dynasty would never contract a loan, as it 
would know better than anybody how dear such 
things are, and on this account alone the burden 
on their subjects would be alleviated by several 
millions a year. The bribing, both active and 
passive, of ministers would have to cease ; why 
should they be bribed any longer, or what would 
there be to bribe them with? All that sort of 
thing would be ancient history, and morality 
would be greatly promoted. All civil lists 
would be abolished, except that of the Roths- 
childs, but this would lay no new burden on the 
community, as the Rothschilds had their lists 
longer than those of any other prince when 
they were private individuals. 

" If the house of Rothschild sat on the throne 

of France, the world would be relieved of the 

N 193 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

great dread of a war between that powerful 
house and the house of Habsburg. Austria 
and Rothschild have, as the English papers say 
on good authority, been for some time much 
annoyed with each other. Austria has dis- 
covered that the friendship with which the 
Rothschild brothers honour it is likely to cost 
it dear. The bank concluded its last loan at a 
price of 85 or 86, and won 6 or 7 per cent, 
immediately the contract was signed. So extra- 
ordinary a circumstance was bound to attract 
the notice of the Austrian cabinet. It therefore 
decided to employ less expensive agents in 
future for its finances, or to throw open its 
financial transactions to competition. The 
Rothschild firm, in order to frustrate these 
plans and show the Austrian Government that 
people cannot with impunity break an alliance 
with them, made money so scarce in Vienna, 
Frankfort, and other cities, that no other firm 
was in a position to undertake the loan. Austria 
had to sue for pardon. 

' There had been some strained feeling 

between the two houses at an earlier date 

Baron James Rothschild 

Austria had entrusted to the Rothschilds the 
sums which had fallen to its share out of the 
French contribution-money. These sums were 
to be invested in French funds, which were 
then low, and they were to be sold again when 
they reached a better figure. After a few years 
the Rothschilds sold the stock and represented 
them as at 95, but Austria discovered that at 
the time of the sale the funds were at par. 
There was a little difference of .750,000. 
Austria resented the matter, but Rothschild 
secured the mediation of friends of both parties 
and the quarrel was composed. 

'The French journal which relates, on the 
strength of the English Press, these stories of 
war and peace in all their details, comments as 
follows on the matter : ' What are the means 
which enable these bankers to compel the 
Austrian Government to fall in with their 
wishes? They use the same means as they 
did under the minister Villele, with whom 
Rothschild shared enormous gains, as we will 
show; the same means which they adopted 
recently in negotiating a loan with the Perier 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

ministry. Have we not seen the French funds 
depreciated by continuous sales, effected by 
those who wanted to have the loan at an im- 
moderate price? These lenders have done 
under our own eyes the very thing of which 
the Austrian Government complained when it 
wished to break with them. Our 5 per cents, 
were brought down to less than 80 francs, in 
order to get the loan at that price, and as soon 
as the loan was contracted at 84, the funds rose 
above 88 francs. It is always the same game 
that these Rothschilds play, in order to enrich 
themselves at the cost of the land that they 
exploit. . . . We have already shown that the 
financiers are the nation's worst enemies. They 
have done more than any to undermine the 
foundations of freedom, and it is unquestion- 
able that most of the peoples of Europe 
would by this time be in full possession of 
liberty if such men as Rothschild, Ouvrard, 
Aguado, Casimir Perier and others, did 
not lend the autocrats the support of their 

' ' Only this week Dupin spoke of bankers 

Baron James Rothschild 

in the Chamber as lynxes! Carnivorous 
animals, of the cat family. Casimir Perier 
bitterly complained of this unseasonable bit of 
natural history. That brings me back to the 
Rothschilds. Once more I ask Would it not 
be a good thing for the world if all the crowns 
were placed on their heads instead of lying at 
their feet as they do now? It is really coming 
to that. Although the Rothschilds do not yet 
occupy thrones, they are at all events asked 
their advice as to the choice of a ruler when 
a throne falls vacant. Herr von Gagern 
has recently explained this openly in the 
Allgemeine Zeitung. It is a remarkable 

" Herr von Gagern was formerly a member 
of the Bundestag. This distinguished states- 
man, whom aristocrats represent as so charm- 
ingly romantic, and who used to walk amongst 
the tombs of the ancient knights by moonlight, 
caught a chill in his nocturnal wanderings a few 
years ago. Since that time he has been afflicted 
with a political discharge at the mouth, a 
malady which is as rarely found among diplo- 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

matists as extinction of the voice is common 
amongst them. However, this curious ailment 
of Herr von Gagern affords us some instructive 
and useful information about the obscure 
physiology of the diplomatist and the aristocrat. 
The great statesman sends a letter from Harnau 
to the Allgemeine Zeitung about Greece. Now, 
Harnau is not in Greece, but in Taunus, and I 
believe that two years ago, when we spent the 
summer in the south, we ate a meal at Harnau 
one evening. 

" However, Herr von Gagern writes that he, 
von Stein and Capodistrias had often discussed 
Greece at Nassau and Ems. I can confirm 
that. At Ems I heard these gentlemen, two 
summers in succession, frequently discussing 
together. But, although I listened a good deal, 
it did not occur to me that they were talking 
about Greece. It seemed to me that they were 
talking about their own affairs and their 
families. They were * amongst the most ardent 
and zealous partisans of Greece, or of the Greek 
question/ Why Herr von Gagern translates 
the well-known word * Greece ' into ' the Greek 

Baron James Rothschild 

question/ I will explain. There is nothing in 
the world so soft-hearted, warm-blooded, sensi- 
tive, tearful and emotional as a diplomatist, and 
he has to be very careful not to injure his deli- 
cate health by violent and frequent outbursts 
of feeling. A rigorous diet is indispensable to 
him. Hence, when thousands of miserable 
Portuguese are slaughtered by Dom Miguel; 
when the Italians, driven into the deadly net 
by their hunters, are shot down ; when Belgium 
is cut up like a cheese and wrapped up in pro- 
tocol-papers, to be served out to the hungry 
buyers; when the Poles are disappearing be- 
tween the jaws of tyrants how can diplomatists 
endure the daily sight and sound of all these 
atrocities ? Yet the fate of nations is entrusted 
to them. How do they assuage the pain ? By 
a simple alteration of words. They imagine 
that there is no such thing as a country or a 
people. They never say Portugal and the Por- 
tuguese, Italy and the Italians, and so on, but 
the Portuguese question, or the Italian question. 
It is a kind of salts of magnesia for cooling the 
blood and tranquillising the heart. It is for 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

this medicinal reason that Herr von Gagern 
speaks of the Greek question ; but his heart is 

"Herr von Gagern continues: 'Monarchic 
constitution, German guard, and sufficient credit, 
were the general principles on which we were 
agreed.' Listen to the great principles of these 
great men. . . . They send their fleets to 
separate the Greeks from their enemies, so that 
they shall not win a final victory. . . . The 
Greeks are free ! The cry echoes from court 
to court, and the monarchs now consult us as to 
the best means of putting an end to disorder. 
There are a good many hungry sons of princes 
in Europe who might be fed on the flesh and 
blood of the Greeks hence, 'monarchic con- 
stitution/ The Greeks are fanatical, they 
suffer from a most dangerous inflammation of 
the heart, and the strongest remedy must be 
applied at once hence, * German guard.' But 
there is no son of a king so foolish as to take 
his own money to Greece; the Greeks must 
open their purses to him if he is to make them 
happy; but the Greeks are poor, and their 

Baron James Rothschild 

monarch must borrow in their name hence, 
' sufficient credit.' 

" Many sons of princes professed themselves 
ready to make the Greeks happy. Which of 
them shall we choose? That is the Greek 
question. The noblest, the bravest, the ablest, 
or the best-tempered? No, but the one who 
has the best credit, the one who will be best 
able to pay his ministers, equerries, ambassa- 
dors, court-marshals, chamberlains, and noble 
officers of the guard. Herr von Gagern there- 
fore carefully inquires at ' the first banking 
house in Europe' (or of M. de Rothschild) 
which prince has the longest credit. M. de 
Rothschild finds that all the princes of Europe 
are in his credit-book except Prince Frederick 
of the Netherlands, and he concludes that the 
prince who has never asked him for credit is 
the most worthy of it. He therefore reports to 
Herr von Gagern : Prince Frederick of the 
Netherlands has the best credit. ' Then Prince 
Frederick of the Netherlands is the most worthy 
to become King of the Greeks I mean the 
Greek question,' says Herr von Gagern." 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Borne clearly wished in this letter to satirise 
the Greek question, as it then stood, but the 
point of his sarcasm was also directed against 
Baron Rothschild. Heine was again requested 
to avenge the baron, and he poured his sharpest 
satire on Borne on every possible occasion. 
Even after Borne's death Heine ridiculed him 
so much that one of his friends challenged 
the poet to fight a duel. It took place on 
September 7, 1840. Heine fired in the air, but 
his antagonist aimed at and hit him. Fortun- 
ately, the bullet struck Heine's purse and he 
was uninjured. When he gave Baron Roths- 
child an account of the duel, he added 

"And do you know what saved my life? 
My purse. The bullet stuck in it. I call that 
money well invested." 

The intimate friendship between Baron 
James and Heine was never interrupted. 
Rothschild sought the poet's company, and, 
whenever there was a quiet time on the Ex- 
change, he used to ask Heine to come and dine 
with him en famille, so that he could enjoy the 
familiar conversation of the poet. 

Baron James Rothschild 

On one of these occasions Heine was, con- 
trary to his usual custom, very chary with his 
speech. Rothschild wanted to unlock his 
tongue at any cost, and he ordered his finest 
wines to be served. The poet remained silent, 
however. At last Rothschild produced a bottle 
of his finest Lacrima Christi, and handed Heine 
a glass of it. The poet lifted the delicate glass 
to his lips, sipped it, and said nothing. Then 
Rothschild asked him how he liked the wine. 

"Well, thank you," he said. 

" Perhaps you do not know what you have 
been drinking," said the baron. ' That is 
Lacrima Christi, the noblest and best wine in 
the world, made from the grapes which ripen at 
the foot of Vesuvius. That is why it is so 
fiery. Every drop of it costs a ducat. And 
you have not a word to say about this heavenly 

"Do you know, baron," Heine asked, "why 
is it called Lacrima Christi, or the Tears of 


' These are Christ's tears," said Heine, " be- 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

cause Christ weeps at the sight of two wicked 
Jews like us drinking so precious a wine while 
there are thousands of poor devils in Paris 
without a bit of bread." 

Of the private life of Baron James the 
chronicles of the time relate very little. It is 
possible that his great financial transactions and 
the charm of the social life of Paris left him 
no time for the intimacy of family life; it is, 
however, equally possible that, like most of the 
Jews, he regarded intimate domestic life as a 
sacred thing into which he would not allow pro- 
fane publicity to penetrate. His social obliga- 
tions and business undertakings compelled him 
only too frequently to appear in public, and he 
therefore wished to withdraw from the glances 
of the inquisitive at least as far as his domestic 
life was concerned. 

He had married his niece, the daughter of his 
brother Solomon of Vienna. Betty Rothschild 
was thirteen years younger than her uncle. Six 
children were born of the marriage of Baron 
James and Betty, and all married within the 
family, generally their cousins. 

Baron James Rothschild 

Baron James Rothschild died on November 
15, 1868, and was buried in the family vault of 
the de Rothschilds at Pere Lachaise. His suc- 
cessor in the control of the Parisian house was 
his eldest son, Baron Alphonse Rothschild. He 
had a much easier task than his father, and did 
not need to strain his powers very much 
in increasing the fortune of the family; it 
grew almost automatically. Hence financial 
operations did not claim so much of the 
son's time as they had done in the case of 
the father, who, as long as he lived, con- 
trolled the business alone and gave his son 
full liberty to enjoy his youth, to travel, to 
educate himself, and to cultivate the thousand 
pleasures which his great means put within his 

Baron Alphonse was a zealous patron of art ; 
his artistic judgment was authoritative, and 
always evinced a thorough knowledge. His 
artistic collections and his superbly furnished 
rooms were one of the sights of Paris. He was 
also not insensible to the demands of the age 
and the social duties of his class. He was the 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

first in France to build homes for the workers, 
and he spent more than ten million francs on 
this object. 

The French regarded Baron Alphonse 
Rothschild as entirely one of themselves; they 
never reproached him, as they had reproached 
his father, with living half a century in France 
without becoming really French. During the 
siege of Paris the Rothschild mansion, the 
Chateau Ferrieres, was the chief centre of the 
Germans, and it says much for the international 
esteem which the name Rothschild enjoyed that 
the Germans, hostile troops, regarded the 
chateau as extra-territorial and carefully pro- 
tected it from plunder or damage. It was in 
the Rothschild chateau that Jules Favre visited 
Bismarck, and the "iron Chancellor" dictated 
the colossal sum of the war indemnity 
5,ooo,ocK),ooo francs. In finding this enormous 
sum, Baron Alphonse gave proof of his French 
patriotism and his willingness to sacrifice. For 
months together he worked night and day at the 
head of his officials in the task of finding the 
immense sum, and it was due to him that it was 

Baron James Rothschild 

at the disposal of the Government at the proper 

In person Baron Alphonse was, like all the 
Rothschilds, peculiar in many ways. He was, 
for instance, extremely superstitious, and he had 
an almost comical dread of the number thirteen. 
He would not enter his palace in the Rue St. 
George, which was made number thirteen at 
some alteration of numbers in the street, until 
the municipal authorities again changed the 

The power and prestige of the Parisian house 
of the Rothschilds diminished somewhat during 
the later years of the life of Baron Alphonse. 
This was due to changes in the general econo- 
mic conditions which were bound to put an end 
to the unassailable power of the Rothschilds. 
The firm still plays a very considerable part in 
the financial life of France, but its power is not 
as absolute as it was in the time of Baron James. 
It now rarely engages in large financial transac- 
tions. It has not the energy for such operations, 
as Baron James had. 

Baron Alphonse Rothschild died in the year 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

1905, without leaving a male heir. His younger 
brother Gustave had now to assume the control 
of the bank, but he was already advanced in 
years and unequal to the task ; nor was his other 
brother Edmund much better qualified. The 
choice therefore fell on younger members of 
the family. Baron Gustave's son, Robert 
Philip, and Baron Edmund's two sons, James 
and Maurice, were put at the head of the 
business. But the vast machinery did not, even 
under their guidance, sustain the activity it had 
had under Baron James, whose life marked the 
golden age of the Parisian house. He has now 
rested in Pere Lachaise for nearly half a 
century ; but the Parisian firm has not yet found 
a second Baron James. 



No city in the world has been so generously 
enriched with natural beauty, with all the 
marvels of earthly splendour, as the " Napoli 
la bella" of the Italians. Before it lies the 
unending, velvet-like blue sea, breaking the 
rays of the sun into millions of sparkling gold 
coins with the ceaseless ruffle of its waves. 
Behind it is the great, fire-breathing volcano, 
rearing its smoke-crowned head, and at times 
pouring streams of devastating gold, which 
spread like serpents of destruction over the 
country, from its awful jaws. There, at the 
foot of Vesuvius, Pompeii and Herculaneum 
sleep their age-long sleep, with all their petri- 
fied treasures; while the glorious blue of the 
island of Capri, with all its wonders, lights 
the distant horizon. Nor does this exhaust the 
marvels of Naples. All round it is a garland 

o 209 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

of laurel-woods, of lemon and orange groves 
in bloom ; the air is full of the intoxicating per- 
fume of the flowers of Sorrento, Amalfi, and 
Posilippo; and the deep blue dome of the 
heavens gracefully arches the wonderful pano- 
rama. Nature has scattered the symbolic gold 
of her sunshine with prodigal hand over the 
city, gilding even the dilapidated huts of the 
poor; and she has been just as parsimonious in 
the scattering of the material gold that men 
covet and treasure. 

It was not, however, the beauty of Italy that 
moved the Rothschilds in the misty north to 
decide, in a council of the five brothers, that 
one of their number should go to conquer the 
country. They had calculated on paper, with 
the greatest care and thoroughness, what 
material results they might attain in a land so 
rich in treasure, yet divided into small States 
whose finances were in a worse condition than 
any others in Europe. They did not seek to 
realise some poetic dream, but they wanted a 
new field for the spread of their business, and, 
as they concluded that Italy was a promising 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

country in this respect, they decided to create 
a centre there. 

The only question that remained was, which 
of the five brothers should be sent on the ex- 
pedition. Maier Amschel's eldest son, Anselm, 
had already entered upon his inheritance, and 
assumed control of the Frankfort house. 
Nathan had gone to London and won un- 
bounded respect for the name of Rothschild in 
misty Albion. Solomon had introduced the 
work of the family into the imperial city on the 
Danube. Even the youngest of the brothers, 
James, had already settled in Paris and 
founded an independent establishment. The 
only one who had as yet no fixed residence, and 
worked alternately at Frankfort, Berlin, and 
Hamburg, was Karl the fourth son of Maier 
Amschel who was no more than an agent of 
the Frankfort or the London house. He was 
now selected to carry the fame and power of 
the Rothschilds to the south. 

Karl Rothschild had hitherto been chiefly 
engaged, like his brothers, in floating the State- 
loans which they undertook. He had not yet 
o 2 211 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

done any business on his own account, and had 
generally been engaged in Prussia as a pleni- 
potentiary of the Frankfort branch. At that 
time financial operations of this nature were 
somewhat uncertain, and had to be carried out 
with great care. The first large transaction 
with Prussia fell in the year 1816, when the 
country urgently needed a few millions to 
enable it to discharge its older debts. The 
Frankfort branch of the Rothschilds, which 
had frequently made advances to the Prussian 
Government out of the English subsidies in 
Napoleonic times, decided to find the required 
money. The loan was to amount to about a 
million sterling, and Karl demanded a com- 
mission of two per cent, for the Frankfort 
house. He had every confidence in his ability 
to carry the business through, as he believed 
that he could easily dispose of the bonds of the 
new loan in Holland. 

At that time Karl was excessively anxious and 
prudent in money matters, as any careful busi- 
ness man is when the embarks on large trans- 
actions for the first time. Though he regarded 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

the loan as thoroughly sound, he did not wish 
to involve the capital of the Rothschilds them- 
selves to the full extent of it, and he therefore 
sought to interest the Amsterdam money- 
market in the operation. But the Dutch 
Government needed this market entirely to 
cover its own financial claims, and would not 
allow the loans of foreign States to be placed 
in their capital. 

Karl Rothschild then thought of the Prince 
of Hesse, who already held Prussian bonds for 
more than 143,000, in connection with an 
earlier loan, and, when Karl came to Cassel, 
he proved willing to undertake the loan. He 
did eventually find the money, and the fact was 
regarded with great satisfaction in Prussia, 
since it would prevent the issue of the new 
loan from depreciating the value of the older 
Prussian bonds. This was Karl's first large 
transaction. It showed that the youngest of 
the Rothschilds had his share of prudence and 
intelligence, even if it betrayed, at the same 
time, that his education had not been so good 
as it might have been. Karl was then twenty- 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

eight years old, yet in the papers relating to 
the transaction we find a letter written by him 
which swarms with mistakes in spelling. It 
contains such sentences as the following 

" I beg you to have it ready as soon as pos- 
sible, if it cant be done at once, must be post- 
poned until mine or my brother his arival." 

The elder brother of whom he speaks in this 
letter is Anselm, of Frankfort, who wanted 
Karl, fifteen years his junior, to make his first 
experiments in business under his care. He 
wished to teach him the thousand and one 
tricks of business life and initiate him to all the 
intrigues and stratagems which were required 
in negotiating State-loans. It was a kind of 
apprenticeship, during which Karl was to learn 
thoroughly the trade of his father and brothers. 
When it was over the brothers, always loyal to 
the wishes of the dead father, made Karl a 
"journeyman" in the profession and sent him 
to Italy to work independently. 

It was the year 1822 when the fourth son of 

1 I have reproduced the errors as literally as possible in 
English. Trans. 


The Rothschilds at Naples 

Maier Amschel established the Italian branch 
of the Rothschild firm at Naples. Money was 
very scarce in Italy at the time, in spite of all 
its treasures. The art of making gold had 
made more headway in every other part of the 
civilised world than in Italy, where the soil was 
so rich in superstition and all kinds of occult 
science. Mysterious alchemists still brooded 
over the flames in their secret chambers, and the 
stuffed salamander, to which the alchemists 
ascribed a supernatural power, hung over the 
furnace. The fluid seethed in the thick-bellied 
retorts and serpentine vessels, and the whale- 
bone saws, the winding tubes, and the steam- 
ing pots all waited for the man-made gold to 
issue from the magical brew. The mysterious 
powder was extracted day by day from these 
phials in the secret laboratories of the alchem- 
ists, and by the light of ancient lamps, which 
hung on chains from the ceiling, the powder 
was committed to the crucibles on the furnaces. 
All the magic was fruitless, however, and 
the secret of the alchemist was not discovered 
in Italy. Then a quiet German Jew made his 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

way down from the misty north and solved the 
problem. He made the coveted gold for the 
Italians. Genuine gold coins rolled from his 
hands gold coins with the papal keys on them 
and their genuineness was best attested by 
the fact that the Holy Father himself accepted 
and hoarded them, and he heaped honours on 
the smiling young Jew whose hands were ever 
full of these gold coins. Karl Rothschild's 
gold rang just as true in the Vatican as in the 
treasuries of the small Italian States, and they 
were very welcome guests everywhere. 

At that time Italy was, like Germany, an 
agglomeration of small States. But it was pre- 
cisely this political division that represented 
Rothschild's capital and afforded him a splen- 
did opportunity for business. When Karl 
chose Naples for his residence, he had no 
intention of confining his operations to the 
kingdom of Naples, but intended to spread 
them over the whole of Italy. There was not a 
very brisk commercial life in Naples at that 
time, but the beautiful city was the largest in 
the country, and there was a prospect of it 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

becoming, with a little effort and skill on the 
part of the Rothschilds, the centre from which 
they could extend their hands to any part of 

Karl did not intend to concern himself with 
the business life of Naples as such. He rarely 
entered into undertakings with private indi- 
viduals. His idea was rather to use the enor- 
mous capital and excellent connections of the 
Rothschilds for the organisation of State-loans, 
as the other four Rothschilds had done so suc- 
cessfully in four other large European cities. 
Italy, the small States of which had perpetually 
to contend against scarcity of money in con- 
sequence of the bad financial policy they 
followed, seemed to be particularly suitable 
for such transactions. It was therefore quite 
natural that, very shortly after his settlement 
in Naples, Karl Rothschild became the almost 
absolute master of the various Italian Ex- 
changes and the decisive factor in the province 
of State finance from the Alps to Naples. 

In attaining this position he had a compara- 
tively easy task. Quite apart from the work 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

of their father, his brothers had already won a 
world-wide respect for the name of Rothschild, 
and the name alone sufficed to smooth his ways 
in the south. And in Italy it was precisely the 
Rothschilds that were wanted : their excellent 
connections, their talent for organisation, and 
their money. The State coffers were empty 
throughout Italy, and even the Vatican had to 
contend with an eternal lack of money. The 
finances of Rome had fallen into a lamentable 
position under the extravagant administration 
of Pius VI, and the value of securities had, in 
view of the lack of funds to cover them, fallen 
to an unprecedented depth five per cent. 
The papal States could not contract any more 
loans even at usurious rates. The situation 
had not improved under Pius VII; indeed, 
during his administration the taxes on salt had 
been increased and the lottery introduced, as 
he had absolutely no other means to raise the 
money that he needed. It was all of no avail, 
and the economy of the State had to contend 
with ever-increasing difficulties. 

On January i, 1821, the sum that had to be 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

paid out annually on bonds in the kingdom of 
Naples amounted to nearly four million Nea- 
politan ducats. It was therefore impossible to 
postpone any longer the reform of the finances, 
and on May 26, 1821, the King of Naples 
separated the financial affairs of Sicily from 
those of Naples, and burdened Sicily with a 
loan of four and a half million ducats, which 
Karl Rothschild found, and the interest on 
which was to be paid to the Paris house. This 
was Karl's debut on Italian soil. He had not 
yet opened a banking-house at Naples, but had 
negotiated with the Neapolitan Government 
as the plenipotentiary of his brothers. The 
loan which he concluded, on very good terms, 
brought to a head his determination to estab- 
lish a banking-house at the foot of Vesuvius. 
He then travelled over Italy, in order, like a 
careful business-man, to collect information as 
to the financial situation in all parts in which 
he trusted to work in the future. His experi- 
ences and information must have satisfied him, 
as he opened his bank at Naples in the follow- 
ing year. Immediately afterwards the Govern- 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

ment turned to him for a loan, and with the 
help of this it extricated itself from its more 
pressing difficulties. 

Karl Rothschild was well informed as to the 
financial condition of Naples and knew that 
the kingdom had to contend constantly with 
money difficulties. He also knew, however, 
that the reason for this was not that the 
treasury could not meet current and extra- 
ordinary expenses; it was simply due to the 
fact that the old burdens were too oppressive, 
on the one hand, and there were grave blunders 
in the fiscal administration of the country on 
the other. The amount of the loan was sixteen 
million ducats, which Karl Rothschild paid 
into the coffers of the State. These sixteen 
millions, however, by no means sufficed to put 
in perfect order the lamentable finances of the 
country. A new loan was needed, and the 
Government again applied to the Neapolitan 
house of the Rothschilds. 

Karl now perceived for the first time the 
great influence he had in the kingdom. He 
had not yet been two years in the country, yet 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

he wielded so great a power that his wish was 
taken as a command. And he now proposed 
to have his wish carried out. He was an 
intimate friend of the Cavaliere de Medici, a 
distinguished Italian noble of fine taste and 
excellent qualities, who was not only a con- 
noisseur in art but a good financier. But the 
Neapolitan Government had banished the 
Cavaliere for political reasons, and he was then 
living in exile at Florence. Rothschild did not 
forget his friend. It may be that he particularly 
felt the absence of his friend in Naples, where 
he was still virtually a stranger and needed 
social support; in any case, he made it a strict 
condition of his floating the new loan that the 
Cavaliere de Medici should be recalled from 
banishment. He knew his friend's ability in 
the province of finance ; and he not only wished 
to have him once more in his circle, but to 
attach him more closely to his person until he 
could find an opportunity to put him in a 
position which would be advantageous to the 
Cavaliere himself and afford a certain security 
to Rothschild. 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

The son of the Frankfort ghetto had already, 
hardly a generation since old Maier Amschel 
had sold his modest wares in Jew Street, at- 
tained such a power that he could dictate terms 
to the Government of a country to which he had 
been a total stranger a few years before, and the 
Government had no alternative but to obey. 

The second loan that Karl Rothschild 
now Baron Karl Rothschild negotiated for 
the Neapolitan treasury amounted to twenty 
million ducats. Yet these immense rolls of 
gold did not remain long in the impoverished 
coffers of the State. In less than a year they 
were empty once more, and there was another 
appeal to Rothschild for assistance. Karl now 
attached fresh conditions to the loan. He 
openly declared that he had no confidence in 
the administration of the country's finances, 
and that he would not think of undertaking the 
new loan unless he was afforded a proportion- 
ate guarantee that the fiscal policy of the State 
would be entirely changed. He would, more- 
over, not be satisfied with a mere verbal pro- 
mise to that effect ; he demanded that the actual 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

minister of finance should be relieved of his 
office and the Cavaliere de Medici should be 
substituted for him. He felt that nothing but 
the co-operation of his friend could give him a 
satisfactory guarantee that the money matters 
of the kingdom would at length be established 
on a safe footing. 

The kingdom of Naples accepted the con- 
dition. The Cavaliere de Medici was made 
minister of finance, within a year of his return 
from exile, solely because Karl Rothschild 
pressed for the appointment. The third loan 
which he then negotiated amounted to about 
,2,000,000, but from that date the Cavaliere de 
Medici controlled the financial administration 
of Naples, and we may take it for granted 
that he did nothing that was inacceptable to 

In the meantime Baron Rothschild had 
begun to regulate the financial condition of the 
other Italian States. Amongst other things the 
Jewish financier liquidated a loan for the 
supreme head of Christendom, the Bishop of 
Rome. The papal Government had in 1834, 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

under the rule of Gregory XVI of the Cap- 
pellari family, converted a five per cent. State- 
loan into three per cent, bonds. This earlier 
five per cent, loan had originally been nego- 
tiated by the Rothschilds in conjunction with 
the Italian banking business of Torlonia for 
the papal States. The papal treasurer, how- 
ever, Cardinal Tosti, now wished to have the 
loan floated in Paris, apart from the Roths- 
childs, and he travelled to that city in order 
to enter into personal relations with the 
Parisian bankers without consulting the Roths- 
childs. No doubt he did this for sectarian 
reasons, but it is possible that the cardinal 
thought he would obtain better conditions 
if he put others in competition with the 

At that time the Parisian bankers were begin- 
ning to organise very vigorously for a common 
attack upon the Rothschilds, who had suc- 
ceeded in excluding all other financiers from 
the business of floating State-loans. This had 
not only led to a great deal of bitterness in 
French banking circles, among what were 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

known as "the notabilities of finance," but it 
was felt as a great humiliation. Not one of 
them would have dared to resist the Roths- 
childs singlehanded, but they hoped that a 
combined action would enable them to oust 
their opponents. 

The six leading banking-houses at Paris 
Hagermann, Andre et Cottier, Fould et 
Oppenheim, Blanc, Collier et Cie, Odier et 
Cie, and Wells et Cie formed an alliance for 
the purpose of breaking the autocratic power 
of the Rothschilds. In arranging the first 
French loan to the Sardinian Government, 
which they managed on the model of the City 
of Paris Lottery, these allied bankers won a 
first small success; they snatched the business 
out of the hands of the Rothschilds and under- 
took it themselves. The lion's share of the 
work fell to Hagermann, who had formerly 
had a bank at Genoa and been regarded as 
one of the leading bankers in that city. During 
the time when he was in business at Genoa 
Hagermann was intimate with the Sardinian 
minister Caccia, and, through him, with the 
p 225 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Parisian banking firm Caccia, to which the 
minister had first offered the loan. The 
Parisian Caccia, however, had too little in- 
fluence to undertake the important business 
offered to him by his brother, but he succeeded 
in getting it placed in the hands of Hagermann 
and his associates. 

The Rothschilds, who had never up to the 
present 1 entertained the idea that competition 
would be of any avail against them, now felt 
the defeat so much that they wanted to avenge 
it, and they swore to spoil the business of the 
allies in future, or at least to hamper it in 
every way they could. They at once drew up 
their plan of campaign. They had sufficient 
means and connections to enable them to bring 
about artificially a considerable fall in the 
price of Parisian securities. This fall in 
Parisian stock brought about a fall in the rate 
of the Sardinian bonds, so that they quickly 
fell far below the price at which the associated 
Parisian bankers had accepted them. 

This conduct of the Rothschilds sufficed to 
inspire the bankers with prudence and induce 

The Rothschilds v at Naples 

them to abandon the idea of further struggle 
against the Rothschilds. When, however, they 
learned Cardinal Tosti's plan to convert the 
five per cent, loan into a three per cent. Andre 
and Cottier insisted that it was an excellent 
opportunity for business, and succeeded in in- 
ducing their associates to undertake it. They 
sent a confidential agent of the allies to the 
papal treasurer at Rome, for the purpose of 
discussing the details with him. They in- 
structed their plenipotentiary to get the loan, 
if possible, at a rate of seventy francs. 

The agent of the bankers, however, had 
another, and not less stringent, instruction; he 
was to act throughout the negotiations as a 
simple intermediary and on no account to 
reveal the names of his principals. This he 
did ; the negotiations were all conducted in the 
name of " the associated bankers of Paris," but 
the names of the bankers were not mentioned. 
He promised to do so when the contract was 
concluded, and Cardinal Tosti was to be free 
to withdraw from the contract if he thought 

them unworthy of confidence. 

r 3 227 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

The plenipotentiary of the six bankers had 
proceeded so far with the negotiations that he 
considered the business to be as good as settled. 
They were approaching the final stage, when, 
in spite of all their precautions, the Rothschilds 
learned of the matter. The mere presence of 
the Parisian agent at Rome, which was at once 
communicated to Baron Karl, seemed to him 
a suspicious circumstance, and, once his sus- 
picions were aroused, he did not find it diffi- 
cult to learn the facts. The Rothschilds had at 
that time influential friends in every Govern- 
ment and every country, and they did not leave 
unrewarded the services of these friends. 

Karl at once went to Rome in order to make 
a personal inquiry into the situation. When 
he became fully acquainted with it, he visited 
Cardinal Tosti and showed him the original 
contract of the earlier five per cent. loan. The 
Rothschilds had undertaken this loan in 
conjunction with the Torlonia firm, and the 
contract signed in regard to it contained a con- 
dition which had hitherto been kept secret; it 
stipulated that the Holy See was not to 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

approach any other firm about a new loan with- 
out first informing the Rothschilds and giving 
it the preference if it offered equally favour- 
able conditions. The earlier loan had been 
arranged before Cardinal Tosti was put in 
charge of the papal treasury, and he was there- 
fore unaware of the secret condition which 
Baron Karl brought to his notice. The inter- 
vention meant neither more nor less than that 
the Rothschild firm was going to use the Veto 
which the contract granted it. 

The papal treasurer was now compelled to 
break off his negotiations with the agent of the 
Parisian bankers. It was a matter of course 
that, if the Rothschilds thought the business 
good enough, they would not let it pass out of 
their hands. On the other hand, it was pos- 
sible for the Parisian bankers to make the loan 
not worth the acceptance of the Rothschilds by 
lowering their terms, and they declared that 
they were prepared to do so if a reasonable 
compromise were not effected. A: that the 
Rothschilds contented themselves with a moral 
victory, entered into friendly correspondence 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

with the Parisian bankers, and came to an 
agreement to undertake the loan in co-operation 
with them. 

The Papal States and the kingdom of 
Naples did other business with the Rothschilds 
besides contracting loans, and Baron Karl 
figured in the accounts of all the small Italian 
States. He advanced loans, for instance, to 
the Grand Duchies of Tuscany and Lucca 
several times ; the total sum amounted to about 

The then kingdom of Sardinia, which had 
five million inhabitants and a national debt of 
about 16,000,000, had no less than thirteen 
loans between 1848 and 1855, amounting in all 
to about 22,000,000, the yearly interest on 
which was more than a million sterling. Two 
of these loans were negotiated by the Roths- 
childs : a loan of 3,200,000 in the year 1850, 
and a loan of the nominal value of 2,680,000 
in 1853. 

As a recognition of the services which the 
Rothschilds rendered to the various Italian 
States, either in floating loans or making 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

advances, the head of the Neapolitan firm 
received a number of decorations and other 
distinctions, even the Pope decorating his 
breast with the Order of the Redeemer. After 
the last revolution Baron Karl felt that he had 
had enough of life in Italy, and he returned 
with his family to his native city of Frankfort. 
As long as he had lived in sunny Naples, his 
salon had been the chief centre of the best 
Neapolitan society. Quite apart from the 
Rothschild millions, there was an attraction in 
Baroness Adelheid, Karl's wife. She was a 
daughter of the wealthy German family Hertz, 
an aunt of the well-known German poet, Paul 
Heyse; and she was the soul of her husband's 

A Neapolitan journalist writes as follows 
about her in the year 1850 

" If ever a woman was called to write the 
memoirs of her time, it is certainly the case 
with Baroness Adelheid, who has had the good 
fortune of observing the most distinguished 
men in Europe in her house during quarter of 
a century. She knows every one of the men 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

who are making history. One may doubt, how- 
ever, if her esteem of men has been much 
increased during that period. The gifted lady 
was more than once compelled to suppress an 
ironical smile when the highest dignitaries, who 
even thought that they were greater than they 
really were, bent respectfully before her and 
were most assiduous in making her the most 
graceful compliments and saying pretty things 
to her, without openly confessing the power of 
money, which was in reality the god to which 
they did homage. Would it be surprising if, 
in such circumstances, the mistress of the 
Rothschild house entertained a great contempt 
for the world? She was, in fact, only saved 
from this by her deep religious sentiment and 
the nobility of her nature." 

Baroness Adelheid owed her great reputa- 
tion for such she assuredly had for the most 
part to her devoted philanthropy ; in her case it 
was certainly not the love of display, but the 
sincere feeling of a noble heart, that impelled 
her to acts of charity. As long as she lived at 

Naples she was conspicuous for philanthropic 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

conduct, and deeply conscious of her religious 
duty to devote part of her means to the relief 
of the poor. She did not, moreover, forget the 
poor in her own distant country. Even while 
she lingered by the azure gulf she used con- 
stantly to send alms for the poor of Frankfort. 
Whenever she travelled to that city, she had 
hundreds of garments made by the various 
women's societies which devote themselves to 
the clothing of the poor at Frankfort, Berlin, 
and Hamburg. She bought up whole shops, 
and thus at one stroke promoted industry and 
helped the destitute. 

She never forgot Naples, and her charity 
extended to the whole of the surrounding 
country. There is still to be seen at Naples 
the Asilo Rothschild : a home for the protection 
of children and for foundlings, which Baroness 
Adelheid founded in 1846 at a cost of nearly 
5000. This was, moreover, not the only 
institution she founded. She was equally 
zealous to provide for infirm old men and 
widows, and many a poor family in Naples 
to-day still draws money from the interest of 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

the fund which Baroness Adelheid devoted to 
that purpose half a century ago. 

The obituary notices of the baroness speak 
of her as a woman of a type that is dying out. 
In her mind ideas of feminine emancipation 
never displaced the womanly virtues, even 
when she was misunderstood at times and her 
gifts abused. She had a remarkable gift of 
bringing relief to the distressed by her inimi- 
table amiability, of making her gifts acceptable, 
and of inspiring courage and confidence in the 
dispirited. She never waited for the sufferer to 
come to her, but she herself sought out the 
poor, in the hovel no less than in the homes of 
impoverished gentlefolk. She had a kindly 
penetrating eye for the poverty that hid itself 
from the world under a cloak of seeming 
prosperity. It was these people whom she 
chiefly loved to assist. 

The baroness was at the same time a pro- 
tectress of art, of science, and of genius. She 
had a passion for all that was noble, beautiful 
and exalted, wherever it was found. " It was," 
says the Neapolitan writer, " as if all the graces 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

hovered about her wherever she was." With 
all her gifts of heart and character she was at 
times very witty and brilliant. She had a real 
enthusiasm for art, and a wonderfully clear and 
critical judgment of everything connected with 
it. Well educated and intelligent as she was, 
she never forgot her Jewish origin, and was 
never, in any part of Catholic Italy, exposed 
to any unpleasantness on that account, although 
the Jews were very much oppressed in the 
country at the time. Even cardinals ignored 
her nationality. She not only supported her 
co-religionists, but often took their side in some 
controversy. Once, for instance, she obtained 
an audience from Pius IX, and expressed her- 
self fearlessly to the Pope in regard to the 
persecution which Cardinal della Gengha and 
other powerful cardinals inflicted on the poor 
inmates of the Roman ghetto. The little 
Jewess bitterly reproached the successor of 
Peter, in the handsome chambers of the 
Vatican, and declared that such barbarism was 
a disgrace to the nineteenth century, and that 
he, the Pope, ought not to allow it, since he 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

must know from his own experience how 
painful it is to see one's co-religionists per- 
secuted. If it pained the Pope to see the 
faithful oppressed in Ireland, it was no less 
painful to her to see the Jews ill-treated at 

Baroness Adelheid died in the year 1853 at 
the age of fifty-three. She was buried in her 
own soil, at Frankfort, and two years after- 
wards Baron Karl, who was in his sixty-eighth 
year, followed her to the grave. He also was 
buried at Frankfort, where husband and wife 
sleep together in the Jewish cemetery under the 
simple monument of Carrara marble, which 
bears the words : " Sleep : Baroness Adelheid 
and Baron Karl Rothschild." 

Four children a daughter and three sons- 
survived the parents. The daughter, Charlotte, 
married Lionel Rothschild of London, and the 
brothers also chose their spouses within the 
family Maier Karl, the eldest, married his 
sister-in-law Louisa, the sister of Baron Lionel. 
His brother, Adolf Karl, married a daughter 
of the Vienna family, Julia, the granddaughter 

The Rothschilds at Naples 

of Baron Solomon. The youngest son, 
Wilhelm Karl, married Julia's sister Mathilda. 
After the death of their parents all the three 
sons moved to Frankfort, as none of them 
regarded Italy as a favourable field for the 
great financial operations of their house. Their 
father had ceased to do business in Naples 
some months before he died, and they con- 
cluded that it would be better to abandon it. 
When they reached Frankfort, Baron Anselm, 
the eldest son of Maier Amschel, was an infirm 
and failing old man. Eighty-two years of toil 
and strain weighed heavily on him, and he 
merely awaited the hour when he could transfer 
the burden to younger shoulders. It had now 
come. He had no children, and therefore 
relied on his nephews. The eldest of them, 
Baron Maier Karl, was thirty-five years old, 
and was put at the head of the Frankfort 
branch, which old Maier Amschel himself had 
once controlled. He now took the place of 
the grandfather and filled it very ably. He had 
such a fine talent for business, and was so 
reliable and firm, that the aged Baron Anselm 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

was quite content to leave the reins to him and 
retire. The Neapolitan branch of the firm was 
thus blended with the Frankfort branch, and 
the title " Neapolitan " disappeared. The 
further history of the Neapolitan Rothschilds 
is to be read in the ledgers of the Frankfort 

This Neapolitan activity of the Rothschilds 
had been no more than an episode. Like the 
ancient Norsemen, they had descended for the 
conquest of Italy and had soon become tired 
of their acquisition. The geographical situa- 
tion the difficulty and slowness of communica- 
tion from Naples prevented them from main- 
taining the close connection with the other 
branches of the house which it was an essential 
part of their financial policy to maintain. The 
Apennines and the Alps separated them from 
Paris, London, Vienna and Frankfort, and, as 
there was at that time no telegraph to distant 
regions in communication, they felt that they 
were too isolated. Couriers and pigeons could 
do little to lessen the inconvenience of the 
distance. That is the sole reason for the 


The Rothschilds at Naples 

Rothschilds abandoning Naples. Had the 
telegraph been invented a few years earlier, it 
is possible that the Neapolitan branch would 
have become one of the strongest of the five. 
As it was, they quitted the shores of the beau- 
tiful bay, and they now only return occasion- 
ally for a few weeks' rest, as other travellers 
do, to the city where their father had been 
powerful enough to convert an exile into an 
important minister. 




AFTER the death of Maier Amschel his eldest 
son, Anselm Maier, became the head of the 
Frankfort house. Anselm was a business man 
in body and soul ; that was his chief character- 
istic. In point of fact, however, he had also 
the advantage of that important element of 
commercial life, luck, and this made his work 
considerably easier. He did not, of course, 
rely blindly on his luck, but was always very 
prudent and cautious, and never based his 
calculations on the favour of fortune. His 
concern was rather to grasp the favourable 
moments which arise in political and com- 
mercial life. He followed the course of events 
with close attention, and endeavoured to take 
every possible advantage of political and 
economic conditions. That was his first prin- 
ciple in business, and his luck consisted in the 

The Frankfort House 

fact that events afforded him so many oppor- 
tunities for the application of his principle. 

Anselm Maier Rothschild very closely 
resembled his mother in character, cast of mind, 
and simple ways of life. He maintained this 
plainness throughout life, even when honours 
and dignities had been heaped upon him. Less 
than a year after he had undertaken the control 
of the Frankfort bank he received the title of 
Royal Prussian Privy Commercial Councillor, 
and three years afterwards, in 1816, he was 
raised to the Austrian nobility with his brothers. 
The year 1820 brought him a new title; he was 
made Bavarian Consul for the city of Frankfort 
and official court-banker. 

Old Maier Amschel, who had been put to 
rest in the Jewish cemetery scarcely ten years 
before, can hardly have dreamed that his sons 
would become barons in so short a time. 
Anselm, however, set no store by his title of 
baron of the Austrian Empire. He was inter- 
ested in nothing but business, and took no 
pleasure in anything but large financial opera- 
tions. As the eldest of the five brothers, he 
Q 241 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

often expressed a concern lest the later genera- 
tion, seduced by a desire for titles and dignities, 
display and luxury, should depart more and 
more from the spirit of the elders. He some- 
times bitterly reproached his brothers, espe- 
cially Karl, who was very partial to display. 
The Neapolitan Rothschild once spoke in 
Anselm's presence of his sons as "the young 

" Don't talk to me of young barons," said 
Anselm angrily. " Drop the expression ! Take 
care rather that your young dignitaries become 
honest and hard-working business men; their 
title will never bring them in a farthing." 

He cared nothing for external things, spent 
his early years in an intense application to 
work, and was consequently deficient in educa- 
tion. In later years he tried to improve himself 
in history and languages, and even took to 
gymnastics, but when any one attempted to 
praise his riding he promptly turned his back 
on the flatterer. He spoke French and German 
badly, as he had been compelled to learn these 
languages in middle age; and, in fact, his 

The Frankfort House 

choice of expressions was not much better in 
German. On the artistic side he was interested 
in antique metal-work and small sculpture, and 
he often passed very sound opinions on 
pictures. His chief interest, however, was in 
his garden, where he loved to walk. All these 
peculiarities and faults he retained until his 
eighth decade of life : an interesting example 
of a type that is now dying out. 

He was eccentric throughout life, and never 
really enjoyed his great fortune. A young 
Parisian who was once entertained by him said 
to him, when he was leaving and wished to 
thank him for his hospitality 

"Ah, if one only had the good fortune to 
change places with you, Herr Baron." 

A shadow came over the face of Anselm 
Rothschild, and he replied, gravely and 

" My dear friend, no one would be more 
willing to effect the exchange than I, if it were 
possible. Listen to me. You admire my 
horses. It is certainly a great pleasure to me 
to ride, but my physicians have long forbidden 
Q* 243 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

me to do so ; my stomach and digestive organs 
will not permit it. As to the pleasures of the 
table, I generally pay for them with very 
painful consequences when at any time I have 
yielded to my inclinations. I am completely 
insensitive to the smell of flowers, and so am 
deprived myself of the great pleasure which 
my conservatories give to other people. My 
business activity prevents me from appreciating 
properly the pictures and statues that adorn my 
house. The one creature that I ever really 
loved I have never been able to call mine. In 
a word, all that I get out of wealth is the 
duty of preserving and increasing it. Now, tell 
me, are you still anxious to change places with 

These sombre words give us a glimpse of 
the soul of Baron Anselm. He was not the 
master, but the slave, of his vast fortune. And 
what must have been particularly painful for 
him was the consciousness that he was not his 
own master even in his inmost experiences, to 
say nothing of his professional duties. He had 

to sacrifice his life and every enjoyment, even 


The Frankfort House 

love, to the pitiless god Mammon. The remark 
that he could never call his own the one being 
whom he had ever loved exposes his wound to 
us. Even in his grey, and apparently blood- 
less, old age this wound, inflicted by love, was 
never healed. He had loved with all the ardour 
of his young heart in early life, and had been 
compelled by his father to sacrifice his passion. 
It is not known who it was that thus won the 
heart of the later head of the Frankfort house : 
the family chronicles are silent on that point. 
.We may suppose that the maiden belonged to 
some poor Jewish family, otherwise the father 
would not have been so sternly opposed. 

Thus the first victim of Maier Amschel's 
domestic and matrimonial policy was his eldest 
son, whose happiness he sacrificed to the 
fortune of the house. Anselm bowed to his 
father's orders, and controlled his feelings in 
the interest of the family. How much suffering 
it cost him we can gather from the confession 
in his old age, which shows how keenly he still 
remembered the love of his youth. 

At that time he was married to Eva Hanau, 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

whom his father had chosen for him. No 
children were born of this loveless marriage, 
contracted in the interest of the family. It is 
possible that the childlessness of his wife con- 
tributed to the morose disposition of Baron 
Anselm, whose home was never brightened 
by the laughter of the young. He therefore 
devoted himself entirely to business and passed 
his life without knowing what real joy is. 

A contemporary, who lived in the vicinity 
of Baron Anselm and had good opportunity to 
observe him, writes as follows 

" Maier Anselm von Rothschild is the eldest 
of the European nabobs : a man of thoroughly 
Oriental physiognomy, with old Hebrew ways 
and habits. His hat is pushed back on to his 
neck, his hair is white as snow, his expression 
is, on the whole, one of candour, even when he 
assumes a more cheerful expression if he 
notices that he is observed. His coat is open, 
as a rule, and does not rest neatly on the 
shoulders, but falls negligently over them; his 
hands are always in his trousers pockets, play- 
ing with money. He generally goes on foot, 

The Frankfort House 

and gives money generously to every beggar 
he meets never less than a sixpence. He has 
a strong feeling of philanthropy. The poorer 
Jewish families of Frankfort live largely on 
his benefactions, and he gave the greater part 
of the money for the new Jewish hospital. In 
times of great cold or after a fire he is always 
ready to give large sums. When there is any 
widespread 'distress, quite a crowd gathers in 
the street in front of his bank. 

" His house in the Fahrgasse has not an 
impressive exterior, and a passing stranger 
would never suspect that it was the residence 
of the wealthiest business man in the world. 
From a kind of superstition he still keeps his 
offices in the house ; he feels that luck might 
desert him if he left the house. There he sits 
like a padishah among his clerks, on a raised 
platform, his secretaries at his feet and his 
clerks and agents bustling about. He gives his 
opinion on everything in a few words. Being a 
commercial genius of the first rank, he can 
decide instantly on any offer, oral or written, 
and, when once he has given his brief decision, 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

nothing in the world will induce him to say 
another word about the matter. No one is 
ever allowed to speak privately to him about 
business ; everything is discussed openly in the 
office, as in the old Rhine courts. 

" He observes the hours of business as 
punctually as his clerks, and takes even less 
relief than they; even when he goes to the 
theatre, he is almost always called out because 
some courier has arrived. In the same way he 
is summoned from bed nearly every night to 
read dispatches and perhaps send messages to 
Vienna, Paris or London. He has a small desk 
for the purpose beside his bed. 

" He has a number of titles and decorations, 
but as a rule only wears the ribbon of the Hesse 
Court, and likes to be addressed simply as 
' Herr Baron.' The diplomatists who are 
accredited to Frankfort, and all who pass 
through the city treat him with great distinction, 
and great dinners are exchanged ; but as Roths- 
child only eats kosher meat he does not at all 
enjoy these banquets. This strict and sincere 

adherence to the prescriptions of his religion 

The Frankfort House 

does him great credit; he is regarded as the 
strictest Jew in Frankfort. I have never seen 
any man so distressed, beat his breast so much 
and implore the mercy of heaven, as Baron 
Rothschild on the long day in the synagogue. 
He often faints from the strain of the inter- 
minable prayers and song, and strong-smelling 
plants from his garden are then brought 
and put under his nose to bring him round. 
In earlier years he inflicted severe mortifica- 
tion on himself in order to prevail upon 
heaven to grant him a child, but it was of no 

He was eighty-two years old when he died, 
on December 6, 1855, working with great vigour 
of mind until the end. Work and the exercise 
of charity were the only things which gave him 
pleasure. In his will he left 100,000 to the 
Jewish community, to be distributed in small 
sums, and gave other generous sums to the 
poor. He used to say : " The poor on the 
streets are my servants," and he never passed 
a beggar without giving him something. He 
had inherited this practice from his father. In 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

his will he directed that the poor families of 
Jew Street should receive weekly assistance. 

An anonymous writer published the follow- 
ing portrait of him after his death 

" Rothschild was, apart from his commercial 
position, which we are unable to judge, a man 
of penetrating intelligence and wonderful 
knowledge of men. A remarkable instinct 
enabled him to form the most accurate opinion 
even of people whose cast of thought and intel- 
lectual interests were very different from his 
own. He could detect vanity, hypocrisy, and 
inward emptiness under any veil of learning or 
accomplishment. The solid nucleus was every- 
thing to him, and he treated with straight and 
sincere men on an equal footing. His know- 
ledge of men often passed into disdain of men. 
That is easily understood ; his sharp eye saw 
how everybody paraded his particular quality 
like a peacock's tail the artist his fame, the 
noble his genealogy, the orator his turns of 
speech sometimes with an obvious purpose, 
sometimes with obvious pride, but generally for 
the sake of some mean advantage. 

The Frankfort House 

" He had a great regard for the quiet and 
modest man, who expressed his views candidly. 
He regarded personal interest as the main- 
spring of human conduct, yet did not question 
that there were many with idealistic tempers. 
That there were men here and there who had 
high and sincere thoughts, apart from, or even 
against their own interests, he was quite pre- 
pared to admit, but he was not disposed to 
regard such men as clever. His conversation 
always seemed to be confiding, yet he con- 
trived to give at the same time an impression 
of reserve. The language spoken by the Jews 
was particularly suitable for this equivocal ex- 
pression. The speech they used in Frankfort 
was understood by the Christian and was very 
effective in his mouth; he was quite aware of 
the somewhat droll character of his conversa- 
tion, and made good use of it to convey truths 
and corrections by way of a joke, when they 
might have offended if put in plainer words. 

' The stories that are told of him in this 
connection all point to his possession of a level 
head and penetrating discernment. Sometimes 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

he would express his sense-impressions in very 
simple speech. Once, when a large company 
had gathered to do honour to Thorwaldsen, 
who was passing through Frankfort, Rothschild 
said, looking at him : ' You look so handsome, 
sir, that one would think you had made your- 
self.' Thorwaldsen had to admit that he had 
never received a more original compliment. At 
the time of the celebration of his golden 
wedding it was observed that he showed great 
skill and ease in saying an appropriate word of 
thanks to each of the invited guests, the 
humblest as well as the most distinguished. 

' The old man was aristocratic only in the 
sense that, without any pronounced pride, he 
was conscious of his importance and power. 
His power, indeed, was not slight, since it 
secured for him in such abundance the things 
that men prize. He was not at all unwilling 
to talk about his humble beginning, his selling 
of old coins in hotels, his travelling on foot 
from office to office, his Friday evenings in the 
old house in Jew Street, where the meal con- 
sisted of white bread and roasted nuts; and he 

The Frankfort House 

treated with profound disdain the pride of 
certain other parvenus. Political partisanship 
was foreign to him, except in the sense that 
business gave him a disposition in favour of the 
principles of peace and stability. We remem- 
ber hearing him say on one occasion : ' Men 
want liberty, and are only willing to obey when 
it is to their advantage; as a rule, however, it 
is best for them to obey." 

"Anselm von Rothschild gave away an 
extraordinary amount of money in small sums. 
There may be many who think otherwise, 
because their own petitions were not answered 
to their satisfaction, but that feeling often leads 
to injustice. When begging letters for the 
poor, or for contributions to institutions, 
churches and other purposes, come, not by the 
dozen, but by the hundred and even the thou- 
sand, it is difficult for a man to distinguish 
accurately, and impossible for him to have a 
personal sympathy in every case. His philan- 
thropic feeling, so reminiscent of ancient 
Judaism, was based on a very plain philosophy, 
the motto of which was, ' Live and let live.' 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

He had in addition a tactful appreciation of 
his position; he gave work to a great number, 
and was always pleased to hear that some 
industrious little man was getting on. 

' The poor sustained a heavy loss in him, 
and even the independent observer was forced 
to admit that a remarkable personality passed 
away in him. ... In intercourse with ladies 
he maintained a sort of lively, but not tactless, 
gallantry to the end of his life. . . . With all 
his eccentricities and defects we recognised 
in him a son of the mighty 'seventies, one of 
those original characters that grow rarer every 

A good many anecdotes are told of Baron 
Anselm, for, in spite of his eccentricity and 
misanthropy, he liked wit and repartee. The 
well-known humourist, Moritz Saphir, once 
sent him a note couched in the following 

" Herr Baron, send me a thousand gulden 
and forget me." 

Baron Rothschild sent the money, with the 
witty reply 

The Frankfort House 

" I send herewith the sum you ask and 
have already forgotten you." 

Saphir was very pleased to get the money 
(about 80), but was annoyed that Rothschild 
had capped his wit. He swore that he would 
be avenged with his own peculiar weapon, of 
course. Rothschild had probably forgotten the 
matter when he next met Saphir, who began to 
lament his material cares, and described his 
financial distress in such moving terms that the 
baron, who was at the bottom a soft-hearted 
man, began to sympathise with him. 

" Come to my place to-morrow," he said, 
"and I will give you five hundred gulden'' 
. Saphir, of course, went to his office on the 
following morning, and the financier received 
him with a friendly smile. 

" So you have come for your money ? " he 

" No," replied Saphir, energetically. 

"No?" Rothschild repeated, in great 

" No," Saphir repeated. " I have not come 
for my money, baron, but for yours." 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Another anecdote shows how notorious were 
the baron's generosity and philanthropy. He 
went to Ems for the improvement of his health 
in the summer of 1832, and lodged on the first 
floor of the " Romerberg," where there was 
likewise a young Uhlan officer who was also 
a baron. Rothschild became very friendly with 
him, and they one day went for a walk together 
along the road from the baths to the " Four 
Towers." Suddenly Rothschild interrupted 
the conversation and stood still, as a poorly 
dressed man appeared behind them, feeling in 
his pockets in a somewhat nervous way. The 
young Uhlan thought at first that it might be 
an assassin or robber with intentions on Roths- 
child's pockets or life, but he soon saw that the 
forbidding stranger wanted to give the baron 
something, possibly a begging letter, instead 
of taking something from him. He therefore 
allowed the man to put his note into Roths- 
child's pocket, and the baron quietly resumed 
the walk and the conversation. 

The sharp corner of the letter in his pocket 
behind was, however, a little inconvenient; he 


The Frankfort House 

took it out, glanced at the writing, and put it 
in a better position, saying, " I know what it 
is." Apparently he could tell by feeling it that 
it was a begging letter. They continued their 
walk along the road toward Coblentz, and did 
not turn back until it was growing dusk. Then 
a ragged fellow pounced on Rothschild from 
the bushes and pressed against his breast some 
object that he held in his hand. The young 
officer was just about to throw himself on the 
aggressor when he noticed that it was not a 
pistol or a dagger that the man had in his hand, 
but a begging letter; he was so excited that he 
chose to deliver it in this extraordinary way. 
Rothschild had remained as calm as usual ; he 
was quite accustomed to receive letters in that 

A third anecdote runs that Baron Anselm 
had invited a few friends to supper one warm 
evening, and the window opposite to his chair 
was left open. During dessert, just as they 
were cutting up a pine-apple, a letter shot in 
through the open window, to the astonishment 
of his guests, and dropped on the baron's plate. 
R 257 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

The guests stared, but the baron quietly took 
a piece of gold from his pocket, wrapped it in 
the note (without reading the note), and flung 
it half-way across the street. This original way 
of practising charity amused his guests, but 
Rothschild was not at ease until he knew that 
his gift had reached its destination. He asked 
his guests to allow him to leave them for a 
moment, hurried to the window, and leaned out. 
After looking round for some time, he returned 
quietly to his seat, saying in a low tone of 
voice : " Placed." He had " arranged a loan," 
and, though it would never be paid back, he 
instinctively wished to make sure that it had 
been safely negotiated. 

As an orthodox Jew he observed the Sabbath 
very strictly, but he had no objection to con- 
cluding business and receiving money on such 
days. At the time of the Aix Congress, for 
instance, he had to receive a sum of 20,000 
from the State Treasury on a Saturday evening, 
and he turned up at the proper time. When 
some wit, who noticed him, remarked that it 
was the Sabbath, and that no orthodox Jew 


The Frankfort House 

should handle money or do business on that 
day, Rothschild answered 

" One has not a chance every day of receiv- 
ing 20,000" 

Bismarck knew Baron Anselm very well, and 
he gives us a very characteristic portrait of him 
in a few words 

" He is a poor man in a palace. Childless 
and a widower, deceived by all his people, even 
his fine Frenchified or Anglicised nephews and 
nieces, who will inherit his fortune, treat him 
badly and ungratefully. He is, however, very 
assiduous in business, in spite of all that." 

Bismarck was very fond of Rothschild 
stories, and was personally acquainted with 
several members of the famous family. He 
liked and esteemed them, and was equally 
amused by their eccentricities and their shrewd 
ways. He very often spoke of them at 
banquets, in order to bring in some story about 
them. One of these stories, which very well 
illustrates the business principles of the Roths- 
childs, was told by Bismarck at a dinner in the 
following form. 

R 2 259 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

At that time the head of an important grain 
firm was negotiating the purchase of a large 
quantity of wheat, and thought that the price 
demanded by Baron Rothschild was excessive. 
He bargained for a considerable time, and at 
last exclaimed, in the heat of the struggle 

"A rich man like you, baron, does not need 
to ask the highest price for his goods." 

Baron Anselm laughed slyly at the corn- 
merchant, and said 

" What ! Is my wheat of less value because 
I am a rich man ? " 

The reply is characteristic of the baron's 
business principles. He counted every penny, 
and acted as if his whole fortune depended on 
his making another ten pounds or so out of his 
wares. Bismarck, who recognised the character 
of the Rothschilds in these anecdotes, used also 
to tell a story about Prince Metternich and 
Baron Anselm. Once, when Metternich re- 
turned to his chateau at Johannisberg from 
Frankfort, Rothschild made him a present of 
six bottles of excellent Johannisberg. It was 
the wine produced on Metternich's own estate, 

The Frankfort House 

and, instead of drinking it, he called his butler 
and asked him how much a bottle it cost. 

"A pound," was the reply. 

"Very good," said the prince; "put these 
bottles aside, and the next time Baron Roths- 
child orders any of this wine, send them to him. 
But add three guldens [five shillings] to the 
price, as the wine will then be older." 

Baron Anselm took great pride in his wines 
and his cuisine. Just as he sought the good- 
will of Metternich by making him a present of 
costly wine, he once attempted to captivate the 
Emperor William I by the marvels of his 
cooking. According to Bismarck's account, 
William I was passing through Frankfort, and 
the Chancellor invited the monarch to dine 
with him. When Baron Rothschild heard of 
this, he sent the Emperor a request that he 
might have the honour of finding him a dinner. 
William genially consented, but added that he 
had important matters to discuss with Bismarck, 
and hoped to do this during the dinner. If 
Rothschild did not mind this, he would be 
pleased to dine at his house. He felt that this 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

would put an end to the baron's project, but 
Rothschild was not so easily put off. He 
hastened to Bismarck and tried to persuade him 
to abandon his imperial guest to him (the 
baron), and join them at dinner. Bismarck said 
that he would be pleased to do so, but it was 

: ' Very well," said the baron, " if you will 
not dine with me, let me at least provide the 
dinner. I have one of the best cooks in 
the country. He will do everything, and, if 
I cannot be present, I shall at least have 
the pleasure of feeling that I provided the 

Nothing came of the matter, of course. But 
years afterwards the Chancellor used to say 
in a tone of resignation when he recalled the 

" Unfortunately, I could not comply with 
the baron's request. It was a pity, as his dinner 
would certainly have been much better than 

In view of the advanced age of Baron 
Anselm it at length became necessary to 
arrange for a successor in the control of the 

The Frankfort House 

Frankfort bank. Not having a son of his own, 
he chose the son of his Neapolitan brother, 
Karl, and the nephew lived with him in his later 
years, in order to be initiated into the working 
of the complicated machinery of the business. 
This nephew, Baron Maier Karl, who was then 
thirty-five years old, also inherited the uncle's 
private fortune, which was estimated at over 
two million sterling. Baron Maier Karl con- 
ducted the business on the same lines as his 
uncle had done. He had, from his long 
sojourn in Italy, cultivated a fine taste for art, 
but he was none the less devoted to business, 
and his excellent qualities won for him so much 
regard at Frankfort that he was elected a 
member of the Reichstag of the North German 

He was careful in all things to carry out the 
wishes of the founder of the dynasty, Maier 
Amschel, and married within the family, choos- 
ing Louisa, the daughter of his uncle Nathan at 
London. His own daughter he had no son 
married a member of the family. 

In his domestic life he was more fortunate 
than his uncle had been, and was free from 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

eccentricity. The love of art and of business 
were happily reconciled in his nature, and he 
took pleasure in social life. He held a quiet 
and genial philosophy of life, and did not allow 
himself to be disturbed by the conflicts and 
excitement of social life. His idea of business 
may be gathered from the reply he gave to a 
clerk who once asked him what a man ought 
to do to succeed on the Exchange 

' The thing is very simple," said Baron 
Maier Karl; "we have merely to act as we do 
when we are taking a cold bath. Quick in, 
and quick out again." 

He not only preached this maxim, but acted 
on it, and owed the greater part of his successes 
to it. 

Yet his personal ability could not prevail 
against the change in the political and economic 
conditions. Frankfort, once the focus of com- 
merce, gradually lost its importance, and the 
Rothschild house declined with it. The 
financial position of States had greatly im- 
proved; they were no longer restricted to the 
Rothschilds in seeking loans, as the large 

company-banks now entered the field. Baron 

The Frankfort House 

Maier Karl was able to maintain, to some 
extent, the position of the Frankfort house by 
his own ability and exertions, but it lost its 
cosmopolitan significance when he died. 

He died in January 1887, in his sixty-eighth 
year. After his death his brother William, who 
was eight years younger than he, controlled the 
business of the Frankfort house for a time, but 
at his death his widow Mathilda, granddaughter 
of Baron Solomon of Vienna, could not succeed 
in inducing the relatives to maintain the old 
firm. The head of the Vienna house, Baron 
Albert, supported his aunt in her request, but 
as none of the younger members of the family 
was disposed to undertake to manage it, the 
bank was closed by a family council. 

The house was thus closed less than a 
hundred years since it had been founded by 
Maier Amschel. No longer are ledgers kept 
in the rooms of the Rothschilds at Frankfort, 
whence the sons of the house with the green 
shield had set out to conquer the world; no 
longer do the descendants of the young candi- 
date for the rabbiship decide the fate of State- 
loans. The rest is silence. 




FATE had decided that Solomon Rothschild, 
the second son of Maier Amschel, was to 
become the founder of one of the most import- 
ant branches of the house. The head of the 
famous financial dynasty had put his eldest son, 
Anselm, in charge of the Frankfort bank, and 
it was necessary for the younger brother to seek 
a new field for the exercise of his business 
ability. During the years in which he had 
worked for the parent-house he had occasion to 
visit Vienna, as well as Berlin, at times, and 
he was enabled to decide which of these cities 
would be the more suitable for his purpose. 
He carefully sought information about the 
financial world in both. 

In this way he had become so familiar with 
the financial conditions in Germany that his 

brother Nathan, who already played a great 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

part in the money world at London, called him 
to London in 1818 in order to entrust to him 
the arrangement of the Prussian loan. At this 
time he was disposed to choose Berlin for his 
establishment. Anselm, however, was opposed 
to this. " Prussia can stand a good deal," he 
said, " even exhausting wars ; but it can hardly 
stand two Rothschilds." He was himself quite 
able to deal with Berlin from Frankfort, and 
it would be better for Solomon to go to Vienna. 
So Solomon went to the Austrian capital. 

The financial condition of Austria, and the 
great importance of Vienna as a centre, per- 
suaded the Rothschilds to establish a bank 
there, as they had done at London. The heavy 
strain that Austria had sustained since 1792, in 
the wars against the French Republic and 
Napoleon, had almost exhausted the financial 
resources of the country, and its economic con- 
fusion afforded the Rothschilds a welcome field 
for their specialty, the State-loan. Austria was 
in dire need in this respect, and would not ask 
whether assistance came from Jewish hands or 
no. The Jews had always played a great part 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

in financial matters in Austria, especially at 
Vienna. The nobles were wealthy, but held 
aloof from business, and the State was there- 
fore compelled to turn to the Jews for the help 
it needed. Although their money was liberally 
used, however, they were still badly treated. 
They had to pay a heavy capitation tax, and, in 
order that they might be recognised, they had 
to wear a pointed hat and a yellow patch on the 
left arm. They were also restricted to certain 
quarters of the towns for their residence; 
at Vienna the suburb of Leopoldstadt was 
set aside for them. They were afterwards ex- 
pelled from this suburb in consequence of a 
bloody riot caused by the Vienna students, and 
the synagogues were turned into Christian 

In the course of time the city was compelled 
to put an end to this disorder, and the Jews 
returned to Vienna, though they were still 
deprived of the rights of citizenship. There 
was, therefore, unbounded astonishment when, 
in the year 1783, the Emperor Joseph II gave 
the title of baron to a Jew, the banker Joseph 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

Michael Arnstein. He was the most prominent 
of all the workers on the Vienna Exchange, 
and at the time of the Vienna Congress he 
and his colleague Eskeles gave brilliant feasts 
which attracted the attention of the whole city. 
The Austrian Treasury had done business with 
Arnstein and Eskeles and other important 
Viennese banks just before the Congress. 
When political difficulties now multiplied for 
the Government, most of the other bankers 
declined to do further business with it, and 
Arnstein and Eskeles, who did not withdraw, 
came still further to the front. They were 
joined by Fries & Co., Geymiiller & Co., and 
Steiner & Co., and the four banking houses 
arranged a number of loans for the Government 
during the wars. Steiner & Co. then withdrew 
in turn, after making an enormous profit, on 
the ground that Steiner was advanced in years 
and could no longer bear the strain of business. 
The Rothschilds took the place of the retiring 
firm, just at a time when a new State-loan was 
being negotiated. They arranged this in the 
form of a lottery, which proved very acceptable 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

to the general public. It was thus the Roths- 
childs who induced the monarchy to initiate 
the State lotteries which became so popular in 

The second son of Maier Amschel was 
already at that time an Austrian nobleman, yet 
the baron did not venture for thirty years to 
have a permanent residence in Vienna ; he lived 
in a hotel, so that he should not be compelled 
to submit to the authorities. He did not wish 
to be a citizen of Vienna; as a Jew he could 
not possess the rights of citizenship, and he 
preferred to remain a foreigner, a citizen of 
the free city of Frankfort. In time, however, 
Vienna wished to express its thanks in some 
way for the advantage which it had reaped 
from the establishment of the Rothschilds. 
The authorities wished to see a more cordial 
relation between the city and the financier; 
to see Solomon Rothschild, not a stranger 
amongst them, but as much at home as Nathan 
was at London and James at Paris. A deputa- 
tion, therefore, waited upon him at the beginning 
of 1843, with Count Kolawrat at its head, and 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

offered him, as a New Year's gift, the freedom 
of the city. 

Thus, although his Jewish nationality for- 
bade him to be even a modest citizen of the 
metropolis, his great services procured for 
Baron Solomon the title of honorary freeman : 
a distinction which he richly deserved for the 
unselfishness with which he had always sought 
to promote the interests of Vienna, and the 
practice of philanthropy that had won him 
general esteem and affection. He responded 
to the honour by establishing a foundation, the 
interest of which enabled youths of Vienna 
to make use of the Academy of Arts in that 

Baron Solomon arranged his first Austrian 
State-loan, with the minister of finance, Count 
Stadion, in the year 1820. On the fourth of 
April he, in conjunction with David Parish, 
undertook to float a lottery-loan for a sum of 
four million sterling. His second loan, amount- 
ing to more than three million pounds, was also 
negotiated in co-operation with Parish. When, 

at the end of 1823, Austria again needed 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

money, he found 2,000,000 by means of 
London bankers. Six years later he again 
found 2,000,000 for the Treasury; and a 
smaller loan was arranged five years afterwards. 
In the year 1839 he arranged a loan of 
2,500,000, and in 1842 one amounting to 
3,500,000. Austria was now in a position to 
demand better terms, but Baron Solomon still 
made a considerable profit on these trans- 

The Austrian Government was extremely 
grateful for his assistance; as Gentz says, 
Metternich always spoke in the most flattering 
terms of Baron Solomon's operations. And 
not only did statesmen speak of him with 
respect; other bankers, and even indirect 
rivals, did him justice. When, for instance, 
the head of the firm of Bethmann Brothers, of 
Frankfort, went to Vienna in 1821, he visited 
Baron Solomon, and said of him 

" I recognise that the Rothschilds have been 
of very great assistance to governments, and 
I may honestly say that I have no jealousy 
or complaint on that account. Solomon, in 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

particular, is a man of estimable character, 
and I have a very great regard for him. I 
know on good authority that Solomon Roths- 
child has said that the five brothers have 
made a net profit of 500,0x30. It is a case 
of the English proverb : ' Money makes 
money/ ' 

The cordial co-operation of the five brothers 
contributed materially to the prosperity of the 
firm. There was no grumbling and murmur- 
ing when the result of a transaction did not 
come up to their expectations. Solomon was 
liked by everybody on account of his ways and 
obliging disposition. No one ever left his pre- 
sence without having received some assistance. 
He might have said in all truth that he had 
conquered Vienna. While he won one success 
after another, the firm of Fries & Co., which 
had at one time been associated with him in 
the Austrian loans, came to grief. The son of 
the head of the firm, young Count Fries, was, 
although he had inherited 670,000 from his 
father, and this sum and the discounting busi- 
ness gave him a large income, compelled in 

s 273 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

1824 to fly to Paris, where he died soon 

This catastrophe forced the other three 
associated houses Geymiiller, Arnstein and 
Eskeles, and Rothschild to take into part- 
nership the Vienna banker and millionaire 
Baron Georg Sina, and from that time the 
Austria State-loans were arranged by these 
four firms in co-operation. The Geymiiller 
firm, however, got into difficulties; indeed, a 
warrant was issued against them for " dishonest 
dealing with the moneys entrusted to them," 
and they were called to account. The suc- 
cessors of Steiner & Co., Schikh Brothers, also 
became bankrupt, and many other banks 
wavered. The Rothschilds alone stood firm, 
and seemed to be all-powerful in business. 

Baron Solomon gave his attention to other 
enterprises besides State-loans and banking. 
He not only advanced considerable sums 
to the nobles of Austria and Hungary and 
members of the international aristocracy, but 
founded limited companies and railways, from 
which he made large profits. As Weil wrote, 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

about the middle of the last century : " Roths- 
child is the head of the railways, even as 
opposed to the Government. They are con- 
trolled by a society, and this society is con- 
trolled by one man, who can do what he pleases 
with its members. This man is Rothschild." 
Since that date the private companies have 
nearly all passed into the Government's hands, 
but at that date the chief commercial lines were 
subject to the control of the Rothschilds. 
Amongst others Solomon created the oldest 
railway company in Austria, the " Emperor 
Ferdinand Northern Line," and was thus the 
man to introduce the locomotive into the 
country. The railway was planned, it is true, 
by Francis Xavier Riepl, but Rothschild pro- 
vided the capital that was necessary for its 

It was one of the chief characteristics of the 
Rothschilds that they so quickly grasped the 
situation and adopted sound projects. Baron 
Solomon had his share of this gift of the family 
and was one of the first to see the importance 
of the new means of reducing distances. In 
82 275 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

the year 1836, when the Vienna station of the 
line was built, a statue of Baron Solomon was 
erected by the company in the waiting-hall. 
The finest sculptor of the time executed it; it 
was of life size, and of Carrara marble, and 
the pedestal bore the inscription 




On the other side of the pedestal were the 


Rothschild also undertook the financing of 
mines and smelting-works, not only in Austria, 
but in other countries also, even as far away 
as Spain. He farmed the quicksilver mines 
of Almaden, after the united Spanish banks, 
under the title " Banco Espanol de San Fer- 
nando," had failed to secure the undertaking. 

Baron Solomon's Madrid agents prevented 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

them from obtaining control of it, as this would 
have made them dangerous rivals of the 
Austrian quicksilver mines which produced 
large quantities of mercury every year. The 
struggle ended in a compromise and partner- 
ship. A certain uniformity of prices was 
agreed upon, and the Rothschilds secured a 
larger profit. 

The traditional luck of the Rothschilds never 
left Baron Solomon. For instance, when, in 
the month of November 1836, a great fire 
raged at New York and threatened to destroy 
whole streets, the Rothschilds' sulphur store, 
which was in one of the threatened streets, was 
uninjured. Not a building in that street took 
fire. The remarkable fever for speculation 
which was rife at that time also contributed 
to their fortune. Every day witnessed new 
foundations, and wherever there was a prospect 
of profit, they hastened to take large batches of 
shares. They played the leading part in the 
establishment of banks, limited companies, and 
industrial enterprises, as they could often make 
more by constructing a railway than in arrang- 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

ing a State-loan. According to a contemporary 
they amassed a sum of more than 20,000,000 
by commercial and industrial enterprises and 
the creation of railways. 

Baron Solomon also extended his operations 
as far as Trieste, where he controlled the 
market in conjunction with the firm of Mar- 
purgo. He took the leading part in every 
financial operation in Austria, and it could be 
shown that State-loans had always in some way 
to pass through his hands. On more than 
one occasion the circumstances of the Empire 
were confidentially submitted to him; he had 
free access to ministers, and Metternich was 
his special protector. The relation between 
the two men had assumed a friendly character, 
but Rothschild did not hesitate at times to 
oppose the powerful minister. An occasion of 
this kind occurred in 1831, at the time of the 
Belgian Revolution, when a bitter and secret 
struggle took place between the statesman and 
the financier; the more dangerous as it was 
concealed by a show of politeness. Metternich 
pressed imperiously for money from Roths- 


The Vienna Rothschilds 

child, in order to be able to make an armed 
intervention. Rothschild hesitated and de- 
ferred his reply, as he wanted first to learn from 
his brothers at Paris and London whether 
this intervention would disturb their business. 
Metternich became very impatient, and at last 
secret instructions came from Nathan and 
James that Solomon must be very careful; he 
must on no account supply money for the war, 
as England and France were on the side of 

At this Baron Solomon resisted all the pres- 
sure of Metternich; he refused the money, and 
Metternich had to abandon his plan of armed 
intervention. Rothschild's refusal must have 
prevented the sacrifice of many human lives. 
Metternich was, no doubt, very angry with the 
baron for refusing his assistance, but he was 
not wholly estranged, chiefly owing to the 
mediation of Metternich's third wife, the 
Countess Zichy-Ferraris. Solomon had won 
the regard of the great diplomatist's wife, act- 
ing on the principle that " Little gifts maintain 
the life of friendship." Through her he came 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

into touch with the members of the Hungarian 
aristocracy, as we can trace in the ledgers of 
the firm. They were more in need of money 
than ever at that time, and frequently mort- 
gaged their estates. Prince Esterhazy had 
about 540,000 from Rothschild, Count 
Hunyady about 40,000, Count Sandor 
56,000, Count Szechenyi 166,000, and 
so on. 

The Rothschilds wished to enlarge their 
capital by dealing in landed property as well 
as money. Both in Germany, France, and 
Austria they bought extensive estates, and were 
in many places allowed to place an entail on 
the property. On one occasion Baron Solomon 
received an even more conspicuous proof of 
imperial favour. He had rendered some im- 
portant service to the country, and the Emperor 
received him in private audience and gave him 
a ring from his own finger. The ring was not 
of much intrinsic value to a millionaire, but 
Rothschild was greatly concerned when, some 
time afterwards, he lost it after taking a bath. 
He promised a princely reward to any one who 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

discovered it, and, when the chief attendant at 
the bathing establishment found it and restored 
it to him, he gave her a sum amounting to 
nearly 600, with which she set up a business 
of her own. 

The Viennese, especially the Jewesses at 
Vienna, had a curious superstition in regard to 
Rothschild's hand. They literally believed 
that he turned into gold everything that he 
touched, as Baron Solomon himself discovered 
on one occasion. It was a very busy day on 
the Exchange, and the porter informed the 
baron that a lady, who would not give her 
name, wished to see him. He was an amiable 
and polite man, especially to ladies, and he 
hastened at once to his mysterious visitor. A 
lady veiled thickly to her feet was waiting for 
him, and Baron Solomon, thinking that he had 
to deal with a higher type of beggar, took out 
his purse. The lady shook her head, however, 
and said 

" I have not come to beg, baron, but to ask 
a favour." 

"What is it?" 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

" My poor husband died two months ago, 
just before my daughter was betrothed. As 
you know, we Jews do not like a wedding 
during a year of mourning. . . ." 

" Do you want me to give you something for 
her outfit or her dowry ? " asked the baron, who 
was anxious to get back to his important 
business on the Exchange. 

" I am very grateful to you, but, fortunately, 
my husband has left us in fair circumstances. 
We are not rich, but we are not poor. . . ." 

" What do you want then, madam, please ? " 

" I have a favour to ask of you. I cannot 
give my daughter a dowry, but would like to 
give her something for luck. . . ." 

Baron Rothschild was impatient at wasting 
his time on trifles with a Jewish widow while 
the fight proceeded on the Exchange. 

"Well, what is it?" he said, again fingering 
his purse. 

The woman seized his arm. 

" No, baron, I don't want money, but some- 
thing to bring good luck to my daughter, as it 
will do better than your money/' 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

" What do you want ? " the baron said in 

" My husband, baron," she said quietly, " left 
me three Rothschild lottery bonds. I am 
giving them to my daughter, and, as I know 
what a lucky hand you have, I beg you to touch 
them, and I am sure that we shall then win a 
good prize." 

The baron touched the papers for her, and 
she went away. 

The younger generation of the Rothschilds 
were more disposed to enjoy social life, espe- 
cially in their earlier years. They were not 
attracted to the art of making money, and, 
indeed, the head of the family allowed none of 
them to interfere in the business as long as he 
lived. They had therefore plenty of time for 
social distractions, and began to move in the 
most exclusive circles at Vienna. Baron An- 
selm, Solomon's son, led the "gilded youths" 
of the town ; he used to drive always in a two- 
horsed carriage, and pay the coachman four or 
five times his fare. It did not threaten the 
stability of the firm, but Baron Solomon greatly 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

disliked his son's conduct. One day Baron 
Solomon needed to get to some place as quickly 
as possible and took the first decent carriage 
he found. It happened to be the carriage which 
his son generally used, and the man looked 
forward to receiving an excellent tip. He was 
almost speechless with astonishment when it 
came to paying. The baron handed him the 
precise fare for the journey, and not a penny 
more. The coachman made a long face, and 
stood looking at the coin in his hand. 

" Isn't that the correct fare ? " the baron 
asked him. 

"Oh, yes, the fare is correct," the man 
muttered. " But the young baron would have 
given me three or four times as much." 

" Indeed," said the baron. " But, you see, 
my son has a wealthy father, and I have 

Baron Anselm had had an excellent education . 
He studied at Berlin University, and he had 
almost as good a business capacity as his uncle 
James, of Paris. He had served his apprentice- 
ship at Paris, and had then gone to transact 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

important business at Berlin, Copenhagen, 
Brussels, and other cities where the Roths- 
childs had no establishments. It was clear that 
he would be a good business-man, and the 
family selected him to go to Frankfort, where 
the advanced age of his uncle Anselm made it 
advisable for him to have a younger assistant. 
He remained there many years until, in 
1880, his father died, and he was needed at 

Baron Solomon had died suddenly on July 
28, in his seventy-ninth year. In spite of his 
advanced age he retained his vigour and a 
remarkable freshness of mind, and was very 
active even in his later years. He had only 
one son and one daughter by the marriage 
which he contracted with Caroline Stern. His 
daughter Betty had married Baron James, of 
Paris, and his son Anselm married Charlotte, 
the eldest daughter of his uncle Nathan. 

Baron Anselm took over the management 
of the Vienna house, and continued the work 
which his father had begun in Austria. He 
was fifty-two years old at the time, and this 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

fact and the unfortunate economic circum- 
stances of the time explain how it was that he 
entered upon few new operations during the 
twenty years in which he remained at the head 
of the firm, and was content to maintain the 
old connections. The existing business was, 
therefore, quietly developed, and, as extensive 
operations were no longer contemplated, he 
had time to follow his personal inclinations. 
He was much interested in art, and had a very 
valuable collection of pictures, statues, and 
other artistic treasures, especially enamels and 
gold-work, for which he had a special museum 
erected. He was at the same time a good 
friend of the poor of Vienna, as we may gather 
from the many institutions which they owe to 
his generosity. The Viennese have to thank 
him for the establishment of a hospital, a 
foundling hospital, an institute for the blind, 
an institute for the deaf and dumb, and a 
charitable association. 

He was throughout life a member of the 
Austrian Upper House, to which he had been 
called on April 18, 1861. 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

At the beginning of his career at Vienna 
Baron Anselm had shown considerable vigour. 
After the death of his father, Austria, which 
had created the Southern Railway with national 
funds, wished to dispose of this enterprise, 
with certain privileges, to a company. The 
company was got together by the initiative of 
Baron Anselm; it consisted of the Paris, 
London, and Vienna Rothschilds, and took 
over the railway. It also acquired the central 
Italian lines, and had a capital of 10,000,000. 
In the course of time it connected the two 
sets of lines. Although these transactions did 
not bring a large profit immediately, they 
ultimately proved of great value to the 

The construction of the "Austrian Credit- 
bank for Trade and Commerce," with a capital 
of 4,200,000, falls in the same period, the 
year 1855. Baron Anselm had a large share 
in this, and he sold on the Exchange the shares 
of the new bank, which began at a nominal 
price of 17, soon arose to 34, and for some 
time continued to rise. This rapid advance 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

was, however, unnatural in many respects and 
it led to the "great crash," exposing the 
Vienna grandchildren of Maier Amschel to the 
fiercest attacks. The marvellous success of 
the new Credit-bank had inspired the formation 
of a large number of money businesses, the 
shares of which also rose very rapidly; but, as 
these new businesses had lamentably weak 
foundations, the greater part of them failed at 
the first financial crisis. 

Baron Anselm had recognised in good time 
this tendency to excessive speculation and even 
noticed the symptoms of an approaching crisis. 
He had himself speculated on the high rates, 
but he was the first to unload his shares when 
he saw the evil coming. He began to sell 
quietly in the last days of March 1873, and 
prices began to fall in April owing to the enor- 
mous sales. People were alarmed on the 
Exchange, but at first they attributed the 
sales to over-anxiety on Rothschild's part and 
thought that there were other reasons for the 

Then came May, with a worse, rather than a 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

better, situation on the Exchange. On May 8, 
1873, a broker asked Julius von Goldschmidt, 
an agent of Baron Anselm, to take up securities 
to the amount of 42,000, which he had bought 
for a certain date ; he would afterwards buy the 
papers back from the Rothschilds at a fixed 
price. Goldschmidt said aloud 

" Forty thousand pounds ! All the banks 
together are scarcely worth that." 

His words fell like a cry of alarm on the 
nervous and apprehensive Exchange. Prices 
went down at a jump. No one would buy or 
exchange, and every minute was announced the 
failure of some new financier or firm. The 
words of Rothschild's agent acted like a spark 
upon a barrel of powder; at once there was a 
fearful explosion with the most disastrous con- 
sequences. In one day an appalling number 
of banks and mercantile houses were ruined. 
But the Rothschild firm came undamaged out 
of the catastrophe. 

Baron Anselm Rothschild was in his seventy- 
second year when he died, on July 27, 1874, 
nineteen years after the death of his father. 
T 289 

The Romance of the Rothschilds 

He left five children, and his will directed that 
the control of the business in Vienna should 
pass to his youngest son, Albert. The daughters 
Julia, Mathilda, and Louisa all married the 
sons of Rothschilds, in accordance with the 
wish of old Maier Amschel. Ferdinand, the 
eldest son, married Eveline, the daughter of 
Baron Lionel, of London ; he migrated to Eng- 
land and was naturalised there. He took no 
interest in business matters, either at London 
or Vienna. He had no feeling for business at 
all, and it was on that account that the father 
chose his brother Albert, who was five years 
younger, to succeed him. Baron Ferdinand 
had no wish to traffic with his millions, and 
devoted himself to social life in England. 
Like the other English Rothschilds, he was on 
very good terms with the Prince of Wales, 
afterwards Edward VII, who was often enter- 
tained at his country house. 

The younger brother Albert was quite the 
opposite of Ferdinand in point of character. 
He was a thorough business man; he liked to 
operate on a large scale, and in this respect 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

resembled Nathan, of London. He did his 
work as head of the Vienna house in such a 
way that, in order to keep his finger on the 
pulse of the money market, he obtained an 
almost sovereign influence on the inner life of 
the Austrian National Bank, now known as the 
" Austro-Hungarian Bank." 

This brought Baron Albert into closer touch 
with Hungary, and he soon afterwards founded 
a petroleum refinery at Fiume. Hungary was 
indebted to him for the conversion, in 1881, of 
its six per cent, stock ($0,000,000) into four 
per cent. ; he is said to have made a profit of 
from twelve to thirteen million pounds. This 
profit was not made directly out of the con- 
version, but by Rothschild accepting the stock 
on his own account and selling it afterwards at 
a higher price. The sales of these securities 
were conducted so skilfully and opportunely 
that Rothschild had none of them left, and so 
did not surfer when, on January 22, 1882, the 
crash followed " Black Sunday," and the price 
of the funds fell twenty-five shillings below the 
rate of issue. 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

Black Sunday, or the " Bontoux-crash," as 
that calamitous day is called, did not impair 
the position of the Rothschilds, although Bon- 
toux had opened a veritable campaign against 
the Viennese financiers on the Exchange. 
Bontoux won a number of small successes, but 
on the day of the great battle, January 22, 
Rothschild's opponents sustained a crushing 

Bontoux had some years before been general 
director of the Austrian Southern Railway, and 
had gradually become the representative of 
the Vienna Rothschilds in that lucrative branch 
of business. His high position gave him every 
opportunity to study Rothschild's business 
methods, and this gave him the idea of imitat- 
ing him and becoming a Rothschild himself. 
His confidence increased when he at length 
came to an understanding with a number of 
members of the higher financial world who had 
long resented the great influence of the Roths- 
childs and were quite willing to help to destroy 
it. Bontoux undertook to do this. At the first 

opportunity he threw off the mask of devoted 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

servant and broke with the Rothschilds. He 
formed a coalition against them, at the head 
of which were the Austrian Estate-Bank and 
the Parisian Union Generale ; with the aid of 
these he was to drive the Rothschilds from their 

The Rothschilds soon realised the situation, 
especially as the Union Generale made a stand 
against the new Hungarian stock and attempted 
to lower the price of it. They thought that they 
could defeat their opponents at one blow by 
'depreciating the price of the shares in the bank, 
and so they sold the shares of the Union 
Generale at increasingly low prices on the 
Bourse at Paris. In this, however, they were 
defeated. Bontoux had perceived their inten- 
tion and held back all the shares, which he 
could easily do as they were only nominally 
on the market, and the Rothschilds could not 
deliver more shares in the Union when the 
term expired. That was a blow to the Roths- 
childs. They did not suffer any great material 
loss, but for a time they seemed to have aban- 
doned the idea of fighting. This, however, 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

was not the real reason for their reserve; it 
was due to the death of Baron Alphonse, the 
head of the Paris house. Baron Albert was 
compelled to wait until he was fully in- 
formed of the situation by his colleagues at 

When he at last received his information he 
turned upon Bontoux and his associates with 
all his strength, and before the end of 1881 one 
of the banks that had joined the league against 
him the Banque de Lyon et de la Loire- 
came to grief. This began the crisis ; it spread 
from Lyons, and culminated at Vienna on 
" Black Sunday," when Bontoux and his 
associates were utterly routed. 

Baron Albert was one of the first to hasten 
to the relief of the money market, and it was 
owing to his intervention that the crisis was so 
quickly overcome both in Austria and France. 
He had won a great victory, and his firm was 
as solid as ever. 

But, however great his financial success and 
his merits were, the Vienna court, which had 
conferred the title of baron on his grandfather, 

The Vienna Rothschilds 

would not admit the Jewish financier to its 
circle. His soirees, which rivalled those of 
any crowned head in display and luxury, were 
never attended by members of the imperial 
family. All his invitations were politely de- 
clined. On one occasion, when the whole of 
the archdukes and archduchesses had sent a 
refusal, the soiree had to be postponed "on 
account of measles." The wits of Vienna gave 
the abandoned festival the name of "refusal- 
measles." Baron Albert quietly endured their 
malice. He was so conscious of the greatness of 
the name of Rothschild that he did not regard 
the affair as a question of small personal 
vanity, but rather as a trial of strength, an 
attempt to see whether the old prejudices 
were yet disposed to give way to modern 
ideas. The Hungarian premier at the time, 
Koloman Tisza, understood this, and he 
induced the court to admit Baron Albert to 
its circle. 

He remained at the head of the Vienna firm 
until February 10, 1911. His death, in his 
sixty-seventh year, was attributed to grief at 


The Romance of the Rothschilds 

the suicide of his youngest son Oscar, who shot 
himself out of disappointment in love. The 
father was so deeply shaken by this catastrophe 
that he never recovered. His son Ludwig, 
now thirty years old, is the present head of the 
Vienna firm of the Rothschilds. 


Rickard Clay <* Sont, Limited, London **d Buitgay. 








Balla, Ignatius 

The romance of the